The Women of Ravanda Association (Ravandalı Kadınlar Derneği) received a grant from our Gender Equality Fund in 2021 to strengthen its financial sustainability and organisational development while empowering the women living in Ravanda, Kilis, economically by selling women’s handmade products.
Read below our interview with the Women of Ravanda Association:
This is the first grant that you received from our foundation. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of your organisation?
As women living in rural areas, we started this journey with the dream of building a better life for ourselves, our children and our families. Our common goal was to enhance our well-being and provide a better environment for our children. For this reason, we founded the association in December 2014 as a result of two years of effort. We received the support of the Hüsnü M. Özyeğin Foundation during this process.
Our association, being the only active women’s organisation in Kilis, is also one of the few women-led organisations in rural areas of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) provinces. We carry out activities to increase the value of women’s labour in rural areas, and to empower women socially. The income of the products that we produce, ranging from olive oil soap to pomegranate syrup; from handcrafted items to molasses, goes directly to our members.
As women living in rural areas, we started this journey with the dream of building a better life for ourselves, our children and our families.
We also organise educational and social activities for ourselves and our children. With the support of the Mother-Child Education Foundation (Anne Çocuk Eğitim Vakfı-AÇEV), we opened summer pre-schools for our children and organised reading groups for women. Since 2015, we’ve been hosting the Ravanda Festival, a first in the region. To improve our capacities, we also organise events and training sessions on ecology using natural farming methods.
One of your main activities is to sell the local products of Kilis produced by women in the villages. Can you tell us about the production and sales processes of these products?
At first, it was quite difficult for women to participate in our production processes. Women from different villages faced significant challenges in getting permission from their husbands to attend our activities. Yet, once our association became more active and visible, women’s and their husbands’ perceptions shifted. We purchased women’s products, and they became more involved in the production and operation processes.
We have buildings in 3 villages. 2 of these are abandoned school buildings that we use for packaging and production. With the approval of the Kilis Provincial Directorate of National Education and Polateli and Musabeyli District Governorships, we renovated these buildings. We organise training sessions, meetings and packaging processes in the building located in the Aşağıkalecik Village. We also transport women from different villages for our activities, with the vehicle that the Özyeğin Foundation supplied us in 2019.
In the Gökmusa Village’s soap atelier, 3 women have been producing soap since 2015. Because it is closer to the city centre, we use our building in the Bektaşoğlu Village for the preparation of new year packages. Although our vehicles ease the operational processes, distances between villages is still a challenge. The husbands of some of our members continue to create problems over this.
Women from different villages faced significant challenges in getting permission from their husbands to attend our activities.
On the other hand, women try hard to participate in income-generating activities, even if the amount of that income is not high. We try to buy products from every village as much as possible. We try to create an equal balance of earnings among all women by encouraging women in villages who cannot give products due to land conditions to produce products such as handicrafts, traditional cookies, soaps, etc.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your organisation’s staff, workflow, and production processes? Can you tell us about the changes you made in the way you work during this process?
As producers, we have been significantly harmed by the pandemic. We suspended our operational processes in the early days of the pandemic to avoid the disease. To mitigate risks associated with product transportation, we stopped sales for a month. We revised the shipment period on our online sales to once every 15 days for about 2 months after reopening our website. We had a difficult time planning the preparation of our new year packages, which are our association’s most important income-generating activity.
We were able to get through the curfews and restrictions with minimal damage thanks to the special permission granted by the Kilis Governor’s Office. Without a doubt, our daily online and local sales were negatively affected. On the other hand, we are attempting to fill this gap through collaborations with e-commerce websites.
Our association, being the only active women’s organisation in Kilis, is also one of the few women-led organisations in rural areas of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) provinces.
What kind of collaborations do you build with local governments and civil society organisations to promote your sales?
We have been in contact with the Kilis Municipality from the moment we were established. We have several participants from local governments and public institutions in our Traditional Ravanda Festivals. Their support increases our sales and our visibility. Besides, we have established a valuable partnership with the İpekyolu Development Agency regarding trainings and project development. Cooperatives in Istanbul and many other cities are offering us support in vital matters. We currently collaborate with the Yerdeniz Cooperative, Göztepe Cooperative, Bayramiç Cooperative, Fındıklı Cooperative, Kosuyolu Cooperative and Temiz Hasat (Clean Harvest) Cooperative. Our long-term cooperation with the Kavar Cooperative also continues, we organise the new year packages together every year.
You are receiving a core grant under the 2021 term of our Gender Equality Fund. How will you use this grant and in what ways do you think it will contribute to your work?
This is the first time that we received a core grant. This grant is very important for us because it will meet our human resource needs. With this grant, we hope to overcome the challenges we face in transportation between villages and cities and advance our local and online marketing processes and social media activities. We will continue to invest in our work with the help of a full-time field operations and marketing employee and a part-time social media specialist. We would like to thank you on behalf of the women of Ravanda for your faith and support in us and our efforts.
Established in Kilis, the association works to support the economic and social empowerment of women by providing trainings. The products produced by the women of Ravanda are sold in the association’s online shop and several other e-commerce platforms.