Neighbourhood Mobilization Activities
Neighbourhood organization, which is one of the important components of community work, is a local development model where a dialogue opportunity is created between local administration and citizens. Through such models, service and policy providers become aware of the needs and problems of local people whereas local people actively join in the planning process of service provision. Recently, this field gained importance with the development of principles such as regional development and local democratic governance, through the projects of international institutions, grassroots organizations and NGOs in developing countries including Turkey.
The aim of the Neighbourhood Component of the Women Friendly Cities 2 Project, which is being carried out in Trabzon, Nevşehir, Şanlıurfa, İzmir and Kars provinces in cooperation with United Nations Development Programme and Population Fund, is to reveal women’s capacity to organize to serve the tasks which will increase the life qualities of women living in the neighbourhoods chosen as pilot neighbourhoods. From this point of view, the main objectives of the Neighbourhood Component are:
- Increasing awareness of women living in the pilot neighbourhoods on gender equality, urban services and human rights of women;
- Starting from this awareness, identifying needs and problems peculiar to their neighbourhoods and searching for solutions regarding these issues;
- Ensuring communication between local women and local institutions and organizations through the members of Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committee in the light of identified issues;
- Finally as the result of this dialogue, planning and providing gender sensitive local services in the light of women’s needs and identified problems.
Desired outcome of the neighbourhood mobilization activities under the project is to ensure that the model developed in the Project be taken as examples, owned by all of the local public institutions and spread to all neighbourhoods. In this way, public institutions dealing with planning and providing local services will ensure that they fully serve their purposes and that needs of local women be met by identifying the their needs and consequently, local women be included in urban services as active citizens.
With these reasons in mind, the neighbourhood mobilization activities were prepared and initiated in Trabzon, Nevşehir, İzmir and Şanlıurfa provinces. Kars was included in this scope as of the second half of 2013. In the scope of neighbourhood mobilization activities carried out in urban areas, the first visible result is the individual self-confidence development. Women gained awareness on the importance and value of acting collaboratively rather than individually. They increased their knowledge and confidence on bringing solutions to the problems in their neighbourhood through joint efforts is much more efficient than struggling alone. Sharing, taking responsibility, being a part of a group, spending time together during the common action have been the common achievements as expressed by women themselves.
When women participating in the activities were asked to evaluate themselves, it was observed that their communication skills (asking for permission to speak, choosing a spokesperson, presentation skills etc.) were developed significantly, and this achievement especially affected their communication capacity with the public institutions in a positive way.
Another reflection of the work in this field is that women developed desire and initiative for getting organized under the roof of an NGO and participating actively in the activities and management of nearby NGOs they can cooperate with. They also participated in the work of City Councils and there have been some women who took part in the City Council management following the activities.
Thanks to working together with the local public institutions, women learned about the different services provided by different institutions and the conditions required to benefit from these services. During this cooperation and communication process, women built capacity on expressing themselves, hosting the institutions in the neighbourhood, making presentation and following up on their demands.
In most of the cities, leader women participated in the meetings of Provincial Assemblies, Municipal Assemblies, City Councils and Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committees.
One of the best practices was experienced in İzmir. A Community Centre was identified as the most important need of the neighbourhood during the Focus Group Meetings and it was included in the agenda of the Municipality following the visit paid to the Municipality with 1000 signatures collected by leader women in 3 days and thanks to the subsequent support of Municipality Equality Commission members. Thanks to the activities carried out in the second neighbourhood of İzmir called İsmet Paşa Mahallesi, the park, which was infamous for the drug use problem, was reorganized and put into service again by the Municipality upon the request of women in the neighbourhood. When the neighbourhood women were entitled to name the park in order to guarantee that they will look after it, the name of the reorganized park was decided as “Leader Women Park”.
In Esentepe Neighbourhood of Trabzon province, women were included in the participatory project on landscaping of the Primary School in the neighbourhood, which was being carried out by the Association of Women Architects and Engineers, and they participated in various workshops under the project. Demands of women and children were identified during the workshops and they were reflected on the project. To be able to put the prepared project into practice, a search for a sponsor was initiated.
Neighbourhood mobilization activities in Trabzon and Nevşehir provinces were integrated with the objectives and work plans of Local Equality Action Plan (LEAP) of the cities. Trabzon province went a step ahead and prioritised the activities to be carried out under the headings of “participation” and “urban services” of the LEAP for the neighbourhoods where neighbourhood mobilization activities were carried out. Furthermore, İŞKUR designated the same neighbourhoods as the pilot neighbourhoods for the activities in the institutional work plan prepared in the scope of LEAP.
The first substantial output in Nevşehir province is the establishment of Neighbourhood Mobilization Activities Commission under Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committee. Also as a second output, the records of ALO 153 complaint hotline are now being kept on a gender basis.
In Şanlıurfa, previously, only the muhtar and leading men in the neighbourhood were dominant actors in neighbourhood management but during this process, women succeeded in ensuring their inclusion in the neighbourhood management. Especially leader women and coordinators in the neighbourhood and equality unit officers of the institutions built up a team and took part in enabling women’s access to the services. Neighbourhood Coordinators’ in Şanlıurfa are now listed among the members of Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committee and are regarded as important actors in terms of providing neighbourhood focused service provision.
In conclusion, depending on the city structures, dynamics, habits of institutions and locals of each city, different organization types and success stories were experienced. By the end of 2013, to be able to sustain the increasing momentum and to ensure the sustainability of the neighbourhood governance model, both women and institutions need to be empowered and the neighbourhood focused service provision needs to be followed up. Another work field identified for the year 2014 is to focus on these two fields at province level and advocate for the high level ownership and implementation of Sustainability Strategies prepared for the cities.