Providing a lifeline to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Turkey


Beatrix Senoner and Can Eminoğlu | 23 October 2020

In Turkey, UNHCR is providing monthly cash assistance to particularly vulnerable refugees at risk, who are not covered through other cash assistance schemes, including survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), thanks to EU Humanitarian Aid and other donors. The specific cash for protection programme aims to complement UNHCR’s protection response to SGBV survivors by providing them with a sense of dignity and safety and easing their financial burden.

As part of its protection response, with support by the European Union and other donors, UNHCR has been managing a cash for protection programme for SGBV survivors in Turkey since December 2018. The assistance scheme provides support to SGBV survivors in the form of cash transfers of 760 Turkish Liras per month. The cash is made available on a monthly basis through pre-loaded debit cards provided by UNHCR in cooperation with the Turkish Post Office (PTT). The financial assistance aims at supporting the survivors in the recovery process, by helping them cover some of their expenses, such as medical fees, housing and utility bills, payments for food and other immediate needs.

Currently, around 350 SGBV survivors benefit from UNHCR’s cash assistance each month. One of them is Razia[1], a refugee from Afghanistan, who approached one of UNHCR’s partners, seeking help after experiencing violence. She started receiving the necessary protection support as well as monthly cash assistance, which facilitated her recovery. “In the beginning, I struggled while trying to provide for my children. Thanks to the monthly cash assistance, my children and I live in better and safer conditions now. With UNHCR’s support, we can pay our rent and some of the utility bills,” she explains.  In addition to the cash assistance, Razia also attends psychosocial support sessions by one of UNHCR’s partners and benefits from various other support activities. “I am now able to fully focus on my recovery, as I do not have to think about how to support my family financially,” she highlights. “Right now, not only do I feel better, but I am also more confident and hopeful for my children’s future.”

Farah[2], another survivor receiving UNHCR’s assistance, indicates that the support has provided her with the opportunity to start a new life after she escaped violence and abuse. “I do not feel stressed about the rent and the main expenses anymore. This makes me more independent and allows me to stand on my own feet,” she tells.  For Farah, her children’s education is her number one priority, as she wants them to fulfil their dreams when they grow up and become self-reliant. “Before receiving UNHCR’s support, I was concerned about how to provide an education for my children, due to the financial difficulties we experienced. However, the assistance also helps my children stay at school, as I can now cover their education expenses. UNHCR’s help contributed positively not only to my wellbeing but to that of my entire family.”

In times of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR’s cash for protection programme has become even more important, as in many parts of the world, violence against women is reported to have increased. UNHCR’s cash assistance can provide survivors of violence with a vital lifeline, so they can address urgent needs.

UNHCR’s cash assistance is just one component of the wider support provided by UNHCR and partners as part of the core response for SGBV survivors. This also includes psychosocial support and counselling, and referrals to specialized services, such as safe shelters as well as health and legal support.

Each survivor’s path to recovery is different. In line with the survivor-centred approach, UNHCR considers cash assistance based on the identified needs and the expressed views of the survivor and important part of the protection response, with the aim to help restore their sense of safety and power. Central to this approach is the survivor’s access to essential response services.

For Razia and Farah, UNHCR’s help came at the right time. The assistance provided them with a pillar of strength, helping them and their children get through a difficult time. Going ahead, with the generous help of the EU and other donors, UNHCR will continue to provide cash and other protection support to survivors of violence, so they too can gain back a sense of security, normalcy and hope for their future.

[1] Name has been changed for safety reasons.

[2] Name has been changed for safety reasons.