Providing sustainable economic and social opportunities for women
Mezitli Women Producers Market provides women with space and support to sell their produce and products. The project encourages women to be economically pro-active and helps reduce their dependency on family, particularly male relatives and spouses.
The Women Producers Market is part of a broader strategy of the Municipality of Mezitli to support gender equality. At the same time, the project is also supportive of local small-scale production, that is environmentally sustainable and fosters social interaction between women of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
Mezitli is the youngest district of the city and the region of Mersin in Turkey. Founded as a municipality in 1968, in 2008 Mezitli became an official province of Mersin. Mezitli has evolved rapidly to become an urban district, with modern housing as well as work places, schools, hospitals and other government services and infrastructure. However, almost ¾ of the Mezitli area consist of mountains, plateaus and fields (8126 ha agricultural land).
The Mediterranean climate of Mezitli produces a broad variety of fruits (especially citrus) vegetables, and olives.
Women are still identified as one of the most vulnerable groups in Turkish society and are often economically dependent on their families.
The main objectives of the Mezitli Women Producers Market are;
- reduce gender-based barriers
- expand employment opportunities for women
- increase social and cultural exchange between women
- encourage women to actively participate in society
The Mezitli Women Producers Market was organized as a collaborative initiative between the Mezitli Municipality, and the local women, both producers and consumers. Initially, meetings were held to determine if women producers were interested in participating in a market and the project has been developed according to the needs and requests of the local residents.
Women from all social, economic, and cultural backgrounds are eligible to participate.
Special conditions for participation include:
- All women sellers must be from the Mezitli district All sellers must commit to on-going involvement in the market
- Products should be hand/home-made and follow municipality standards for hygiene
Financial support has been provided by the Mezitli Municipality, to organize the implementation of the Market and information workshops for producers have been conducted.
The City of Mezitli is one of the signatories of Sustainable Development Goals and UN Global Compact, UCLG-MEWA, UCLG and Turkish Healthy Cities Union and the Market project has been created and implemented using those guidelines.
The infrastructure, financial support and monitoring for the market is provided by the Mezitli Municipality, as well as support from experienced municipal staff for the implementation.
As the municipality is providing the basic financial support for the markets, control audits are used to measure the development of the initiative. Regular reports provide enough data to prove the positive impact of this initiative.
Women producers of the region have become more active and more visible and employment opportunities have grown. Through this initiative, women of various backgrounds in education and social environment have been brought together and provided with a platform to develop their own economic independence.
Due to the rules of selection for sellers and products sold, small scale production of local traditional products (such as homemade handicrafts and organic products from gardens) has increased.
The first market opened up in Mezitli in 2014 and subsequently 7 more markets have opened. In the beginning, the market was only opened on the weekends, they are now opened on weekdays as well. The long-term plan is to establish Women Producers Markets in all 40 sub-districts of Mezitli. Furthermore, the Municipality is encouraging women producers to form their own corporation.
The Women’s Producers Market has received substantial media attention. One of Turkey's most watched television channels, Fox TV, came to the market and interviewed various stall holders and this was broadcast on the news. Furthermore, interviews have been conducted with the women producers to evaluate the success of their activity and to document their stories.
The growth in population, mainly through migration from the east Turkey and the influx of people from neighbour countries like Syria, has been an ongoing challenge for Mezitli. The region needs a social/cultural inclusivity approach as well as viable economic projects to ensure local peace and give all citizens a good quality living environment with economic opportunities.
Local markets have a long tradition in Turkey, however, history shows that women are often excluded from participating due to lack on finance and the selection of stall holders is usually decided by male administrators. A solution for this was to make stalls available only to women only and no fee payable for setting up a stall.
Mezitli Women Producers Market, Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation, http://www.guangzhouaward.org/award_d.aspx?CateId=285&newsid=1430
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