In Turkey, fashion creates jobs

Women working at the Argande factory
Women working at the Argande factory. Photo: UNDP in Turkey

For Fatma, divorced at the age of 19 and living at her parents’ house with two kids, life used to be difficult.

“I loved my husband but it did not work,” said Fatma, who lives in Turkey. “He cheated on me. I had no profession and no job. I did not know what to do.”

Fatma’s life changed after she met Şükran Altun, head of the brand Argande. Altun coordinates the Multi-Purpose Community Center for the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) Regional Development Administration.

As part of the project, Argande clothes and accessories are designed by renowned fashion designers in Istanbul and manufactured by women in Southeast Anatolia. The products are sold online and in retail stores in Turkey, and the women working in the project are provided with insurance and a salary.


  • The project helped establish textile factories and ateliers in Southeastern Anatolia, employing over 5,000 people.
  • Over 1,000 women learned about gender equality, reproductive health and communication skills.
  • Around 1,200 women and 400 men participated in trainings on ready-made clothing, quality control, cooperatives, communication and gender equality.

The project is implemented jointly by UNDP and the GAP Regional Development Administration and financed by the Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency (SIDA) to increase business management and entrepreneur skills o women in Southeast Anatolia.

The project has helped give jobs to about 5,000 women and men, Altun says.

“Almost 18 textile factories and almost 60 textile ateliers were founded,” Altun says. “They demand personnel from us and we employ groups of people for a period of three to six months to work at education line and learn the manufacturing process and then start to work in these factories.”

Women’s labour participation rate in Turkey was as low as 29.5 percent in 2012, and 37 percent of women in the labour market work as unpaid family workers, whereas the same rate for men is as low as 5.2 percent.

Female labour participation rate further decreases to 9.8 percent in Southeast Anatolia. Even when women find employment, they generally receive lower incomes and less social security coverage than men.

Since 2008, more than 4,300 women have generated incomes through project-supported activities. Multi-purpose community Centers and local initiatives were supported by developing marketing linkages, providing equipment and raw material. Around 1,200 women and 400 men participated in various trainings on topics such as ready-made clothing, quality control, cooperatives, communication and gender equality.

“So many things have been changed in my life after I started to work for Argande,” Fatma says. “The most important change is that I can put my children through school now. I started to live in my own apartment. It is almost impossible for a woman in the eastern side of Turkey to earn money and live alone with her children. But now I believe I can make all these things happen.”

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