At the Fund, our program officers and directors are always looking for grassroots activists and organizations to invest in. Sometimes, that means expanding our search to new countries where frontline defenders are doing critical work. Our Migrants’ Rights Program recently expanded its portfolio to fund groups in Turkey—which is host to more than 3.5 million refugees, the most in the world. Today, on World Refugee Day, get to know a group doing incredible work to support refugees in southeast Turkey: Lider Kadın Derneği, or the Leader Women Association (LWA).
Based in the Kızıltepe district of Mardin, a Kurdish-majority city near Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq, LWA was originally established in 2010 to promote gender equality and combat violence against women. In 2015, as the violent civil war in Syria forced millions of people to seek safety in Turkey, LWA expanded their work to include refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants—with a particular focus on women and girls. Now, as the number of Afghan refugees rises worldwide, LWA is also providing critical support to the growing Afghan community in Turkey.
“Refugees in Turkey face so many hardships, including legal limbo, social exclusion, and the rising cost of living,” said Houda Benmbarek, who leads the Migrants’ Rights Program at the Fund. “LWA has been a lifeline for so many women and children in need, and we’re thrilled to be supporting them.”
Much of LWA’s work revolves around their three community centers in Mardin, Diyarbakır, and Van. The centers host a variety of activities, seminars, and classes for women and children—ranging from rights-based education and empowerment to skills training in art, music, and sewing. Volunteers and staff—including Syrian refugees—also provide legal advice, psychosocial support, and critical goods like school supplies for refugee children. Perhaps most importantly, though, the centers are a place to build community. Since everything is open to both refugees and host communities, LWA has created an essential space for social integration, cultural exchange, and collective action.
The Fund started supporting LWA in 2021 as part of our emergency COVID-19 funding. Through its deep ties with the local refugee community, LWA was able to identify families in critical need and provide legal support, financial assistance, and material relief. Going forward, we’re excited to resource more of their vital work. Amid ongoing regional conflicts, a rise in anti-refugee hate, and Turkey’s economic crisis, LWA’s efforts to strengthen social cohesion and improve peoples’ quality of life will be more important than ever.
The Fund for Global Human Rights is grateful to Comic Relief for their ongoing support of our work with frontline migrant and refugee groups across the Euro Mediterranean region, enabling these groups to sustain and elevate their work and respond to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and the Afghanistan crisis.