Deep Poverty Network (Derin Yoksulluk Ağı), established by the Open Space Association (Açık Alan Derneği), is receiving grant support from our Donor-Advised Fund to provide 36 women with basic food and hygiene products for eight months. The beneficiaries will also be empowered through psychosocial support, information on women’s legal rights, and trainings to increase their employment opportunities.
Read below our interview:
Our readers are already familiar with the Deep Poverty Network, but for our new readers, can you briefly tell us about how the network was established?
The Deep Poverty Network was founded by a group of volunteers who were organising various workshops for women and children in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Istanbul and at the Çimenev Science and Art Centre.
During the pandemic, weekend curfews, bans or restrictions on street peddling have caused people working in daily and precarious jobs to lose their jobs. We realised that the most basic needs could not be satisfied and that our workshop participants needed support to pay for food, bills and rent. So, we started a solidarity campaign called Change From Home (#EvdenDeğiştir).
The campaign was an emergency response, but we also needed to investigate the resulting rights violations resulting from poverty, to be able to advocate for poverty to be treated as a human rights violation. We also recognised the importance of providing social support to empower people who are part of this solidarity network and to enable them to access other public resources and civil society organisations.
We saw that in 66% of the households, adults have lost their jobs and income, in 13% children were working alongside adults, and in 6% only children were working.
In two years, we have developed our organisational capacity and established three main areas of activity: Change From Home Solidarity Campaign, Research & Advocacy, and Empowerment through Social Work. We are working in line with the principles of a rights-based approach, solidarity, sustainability, emergency response, protection of human dignity, participation, open space, transparency and accountability. We published two research reports, six information notes, two urgent calls, one storybook and one calendar. For more information on our activities, you can review the 2020-21 Annual Report published in January 2022.
Can you tell us about the situation of your beneficiaries, their needs, and the scope and impact of the support you have provided?
The Pandemic and Access to Human Rights research we published in November 2020 formed the basis of our work. We saw that in 66% of the households, adults have lost their jobs and income, in 13% children were working alongside adults, and in 6% only children were working. 82% of the households could not access sufficient food, and 87% could not buy diapers and baby formula.
Similarly, with this research, we found that 67% of these households did not have access to masks and disinfectants during the pandemic. 57% of school-going children could not follow distance education and 11% stated that they would not continue school. We saw that electricity and water subscriptions were closed due to unpaid bills, and people were evicted from their homes due to unpaid rent.
When we look at the ranking of the needs requested, food and baby formula comes first, followed by diapers, clothes and home appliances.
According to our current data, 20% of the households live in tents and shacks, and 41% live in slums. We observed that in 39% of the households there are people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at an early age due to housing conditions and diabetes which can be triggered by diet.
When we look at the ranking of the needs requested, food and baby formula comes first, followed by diapers, clothes and home appliances. Adults in 42% of the households are illiterate, 18% have never been to school, and only 2% are high school graduates. 70% of pre-school children do not attend kindergarten or nursery school since there are no free kindergartens and nursery schools in the neighbourhood.
As we see that people have difficulties in accessing almost all their rights, we carry out research and advocacy to bring about policy-based changes and provide direct support through the Change From Home campaign.
We deliver grocery cards with a balance of TRY 500-600 to more than 300 households every month in the Çekmeköy, Sancaktepe, Ümraniye, Beyoğlu, Fatih and Şişli districts of Istanbul. We also provide basic needs support to 150 households through the Mobile Food Bank project and provide clothing, stationery, hygiene kits, toys and books through periodic campaigns or collaborations. In addition, we have recently started to offer weekly hot meals in a neighbourhood we have identified in cooperation with TOKTUT.
We also think about how these people can be empowered so that they are not dependent on our support, so we provide guidance and follow-up through social workers.
As a result of the economic crisis and inflation, the number of households requesting to be included in the solidarity network is increasing. However, we also think about how these people can be empowered so that they are not dependent on our support, so we provide guidance and follow-up through social workers.
In addition to the pandemic, the economic crisis has negatively affected the families you work with. Can you tell us about the changes in the needs of your beneficiaries?
During the pandemic, people had to develop various methods to manage the limited money they had, such as shopping on credit from the grocery stores, buying only a glass of cooking oil instead of buying one-litre bottles or buying three-four diapers instead of full packages. However, increasing inflation renders these methods useless. Mothers who could not breastfeed due to malnutrition started to feed their children with sugar water because they could not buy baby formula. Children who could not follow distance education due to lack of access to the internet and tablets did not return to face-to-face education. The number of children who started working increased.
The cycle of poverty, passed down from generation to generation, has gripped more people than ever before. This is not the result of the economic crisis that has deepened in the last two years. It is the result of long-standing systematic discrimination and the failure to develop rights-based, preventive, and holistic policies against poverty.
However, Article 30 of the Revised European Social Charter, to which Turkey is a party, recognises the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion: “With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion, the Parties undertake: (a) to take measures within the framework of an overall and coordinated approach to promote the effective access of persons who live or risk living in a situation of social exclusion or poverty, as well as their families, to, in particular, employment, housing, training, education, culture and social and medical assistance; (b) to review these measures with a view to their adaptation if necessary.”
The cycle of poverty, passed down from generation to generation, has gripped more people than ever before
We believe that the fight against poverty is a non-partisan struggle. It is encouraging to see that the prejudices against poverty are beginning to break down, that poverty is being addressed within the framework of human rights and that a language is being developed in this direction.
Deep Poverty Network was one of the CSOs that participated in the “Destekle Değiştir” (Giving Circle) event we organised online for the first time in November 2021. Can you share your experiences with us regarding this event?
It was our first time at such an event. In only six minutes, we explained our activities, what we can change together and why supporters can trust us. Talking about poverty triggers feelings of pity, helplessness, and hopelessness, and it is a field that is much abused. During the presentation, it was difficult to convey the problem in a short time with a language that protects human dignity and creates hope for change. Preparing for this presentation made us reshape our language. The event itself turned into capacity-building support for us as a young and new team.
At the event, you presented the Basic Needs Support for Single Mothers Living in Deep Poverty project. Can you tell us about this project?
Human rights violations resulting from poverty affect each individual diversely. Women experience these in a multi-layered manner. Most of the time, due to unequal gender roles, the entire burden of the household falls on women. Especially if there are elderly, children, and people with illnesses living in the household requiring care, women are the ones meeting all the needs, trying to access social support, and bearing all the physical and psychological burdens.
82% of the women we interviewed could not access period products during the pandemic. In households where spending on period products is considered a luxury, women chose to meet their children’s needs first.
In addition, women experience many difficulties in accessing basic healthcare and hygienic products. 82% of the women we interviewed could not access period products during the pandemic. Similarly, in households where spending on period products is considered a luxury, women chose to meet their children’s needs first.
In the coming period, we aim to support 60 single women residing in Istanbul. We will also organise workshops to support women’s psychological, social, and economic development and essential life skills. A social worker will follow up on the individual cases of these beneficiaries. This will include directing women to employment, enabling them to benefit from the resources of public institutions, and ensuring their access to special education and care services.
About Deep Poverty Network
Deep Poverty Network, established by the Open Space Association in March 2020, has been working on disadvantaged families’ access to basic needs, such as food, hygiene products and baby supplies by determining these needs through field visits. Open Space Association carries out activities in the fields of socio-cultural empowerment and poverty, conducts field research to advocate for eliminating poverty, and organises workshops and training programs with a rights-based perspective.