Can Eminoğlu | 24 March 2022
With the support of the United States, persons in need of international protection in Turkey are supported to continue with university education, thereby building independent lives that benefit both host and refugee communities.
“Examination period is around the corner,” says 21-year-old Farzaneh. “We are studying heavily.” The two siblings, Farzaneh and her 19-year-old sister, Fahimeh, are currently at Ege University in İzmir, studying chemistry and economics, respectively.
The sisters’ family is originally from Afghanistan. As a result of the conflict, the entire family had to flee Kabul to Turkey in 2018. In Afghanistan, attending school brought many challenges for them due to the security situation. Back home, the siblings were in the top three in their school. Even though fleeing their home country felt quite difficult in the beginning, being able to access education became a source of motivation. “Education means everything for us,” explains Farzaneh.
At the high school, the siblings were welcomed with a strong support system. Not only their peers but also their teachers helped Farzaneh and her sister to succeed. “Developing our Turkish skills was our first task. Once we achieved that, following courses turned out to be easier than we thought,” highlights Fahimeh. “Our parents were also supportive in this period.” Thanks to the guidance provided at school and their dedication, they scored well on the university entrance exams. The siblings have been accepted by Ege University to study in the faculties of their personal choice.
“Supporting us through education is very meaningful. This gives a chance to university students to be independent.”
Before moving to İzmir and getting enrolled at the university, they contacted one of UNHCR’s partners, Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), to seek support. “It was a mystery for us how to follow the university registration processes and look for a dormitory,” mentions Farzaneh. “Following our application at ASAM, we have received the necessary information.” During their conversation with the social workers at ASAM, the siblings were also informed about UNHCR Turkey’s Higher Education Cash Grant Programme. With this information in hand, Fahimeh applied for and received the grant: “Supporting us through education is very meaningful,” she emphasizes. “This gives a chance to university students to be independent.” UNHCR’s Higher Education Cash Grant aims to provide financial support to contribute to higher education-related expenses, mainly for the enrollment fees.
This is the first year of university studies for the siblings. As usual, the sisters teamed up to study together. They have also registered with the university library and have already borrowed their first materials for upcoming projects. While concentrating on their studies is their number one priority, exploring the city is also a goal for their free time. “İzmir is a city that gives inspiration,” says Farzaneh. “There are many things to do here.” Once their campus is fully open, the siblings plan to join student clubs to learn new things and socialize with other students.
The siblings are determined to continue with their academic studies. For them, hard work is the most important criterion for being successful in any endeavor. They further believe that, especially for women, education has a transformative effect. “Education helps to create independent women. The grant support that I received also contributes to that. My biggest dream is to be there for women who struggle to achieve their dreams,” Fahimeh says. “Having an occupation which will allow me to help women attend school, develop new skills and explore their internal power is my biggest dream.”
“Helping women attend school, develop new skills and explore their internal power motivates me the most to pursue a career in the future.”
Thanks to the assistance of the United States, persons in need of international protection are supported to participate in enriching academic life through interventions such as education counselling and guidance provided by UNHCR and its partners, as well as the Higher Education Cash Grant Programme initiated by UNHCR. This support can “strengthen the agency of women and girls, to promote women’s economic empowerment and to support access by women and girls to education” as recognized by the Global Compact of Refugees (GCR). More women in higher education, like Farzaneh and Fahimeh, also means a huge step in achieving gender equality by empowering all women and girls, which is one of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015 for a more equal future.
Photo: UNHCR / Emrah Gürel