Equality Fund Response to the Recent Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

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Moving in Crisis

Updated March 1, 2024

Our Response to the Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

At the Equality Fund, we are introducing a total of four grantmaking streams through 2024 to support feminist movements in the many diverse and powerful ways they show up across the world. We are committed to responding to crises, whether disasters or conflict, affecting communities where our partners work. Our Stream 4, “Prepare, Respond and Care,” is a multilayered grantmaking approach that provides financial support to feminist organizations and women’s funds responding to crises at different levels–including recovery and rebuilding in the medium and long term and addressing disasters, armed conflict, and war, as well as other crises in fragile contexts.

Stream 4 was developed given the need for women, girls and non-binary people disproportionately impacted by crises to have access to resources to respond at different levels. Our initial efforts included resources for feminist funds providing support to women’s and LGBTQI+ organizations mobilizing around Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Since then, we have provided flexible funding to support feminist work across multiple additional crises, from droughts in Kenya to floods in Pakistan to crises in Sudan and Afghanistan. This aim was no different in our response to the earthquake disaster in Syria and Turkey.

Responding to the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

On February 6, two earthquakes devastated southeast Turkey and northwest Syria, killing over 50,000 people and displacing hundreds of thousands more. Like all natural disasters, the earthquakes hit women, girls and LGBTQI+ people particularly hard. 

After 12 years of civil war, Syria was already dependent on international aid. When the earthquakes hit, there were delays in support arriving, given politics and donor fatigue. Women who have shouldered the burdens of conflict and displacement now faced new, desperate challenges. The trauma of the earthquakes on top of the conflict sent the numbers of women experiencing deep psychological distress skyrocketing.

In Turkey, we heard from our grantee-partner, Pink Life, on the challenges facing LGBTQI+ people. In the aftermath of the earthquake, LGBTQI+ people experienced physical and psychological violence based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (including accusations that they were responsible for the earthquake). LGBTQI+ people face discrimination when accessing support and services, often being denied transportation and shelter. Many LGBTQI+ people could not rely on their families for support and had trouble accessing general relief services.

There is widespread evidence that women, girls and LGBTQI+ people experience specific and disproportionate harm in the wake of natural disasters. Women and children are much more likely to die than are men. Gender-based violence tends to rise. There are challenges meeting reproductive health needs like safe birthing facilities and menstrual supplies. Traditional gender roles mean that women and girls are generally responsible for finding water and preparing meals in difficult circumstances, as well as caring for children, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities. LGBTQI+ people are often excluded from emergency shelters and face increased discrimination and violence. The Turkey-Syria earthquakes are no exception to these trends.

We Move to Respond

Following the earthquakes we reached out to existing grantee partners and moved additional funds to assist their work. We channelled more than $1.3 million CAD to the following organizations:

  • Kadınlarla Dayanışma Vakfı/ Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV) in Turkey: providing support to local efforts in 11 devastated cities, including responding to short-term needs such as assistance on-site for housing, medical, legal, psychological, education, vocational training, and employment problems of women in the affected regions.
  • Pink Life in Turkey: leading emergency responses for the LGBTQI+ community in disaster areas and providing basic support to members of the community who cannot or are not accessing Government services and support due to fear of discrimination and violence. They also increased the Pink Life clothing bank program–-previously supported by donations–by providing much needed winter clothes, slippers, and basic hygiene products to refugee trans people in Turkey, including people in prison.
  • Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (working regionally): working with its networks to quickly get resources to those in need, including support for psycho-social and emergency support services, and relocation with a special focus on the LGBTQI+ community and feminists working with media. Recognizing that burnout is a major challenge to feminist frontline responders and movements, they have also included this as a focus of their efforts.
  • Global Resilience Fund (working regionally): providing emergency rapid response grants to young women-led, trans youth and girl-centred groups who are directly impacted by and responding to the Earthquake in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. They also conducted a series of workshops focused on care and mental health grief therapy to increase access to spaces of healing support and accompaniment for LGBTQI+ people. These workshops were conducted by different facilitators and practitioners from across Turkey and Syria, and Global Resilience Fund is looking forward to expanding these spaces to other nearby regions.

As illustrated above, a frontline feminist movement response in Turkey and Syria includes:

  • Creating safe spaces for women and LGBTQI+ people
  • A focus on activist burnout, and
  • Collective care and healing spaces.

Local Solutions Built to Last

Through it all, our response in Syria and Turkey reflects the deep values at the core of all our Stream 4 work: feminist solidarity front and centre, with a commitment to listening deeply to organizations on the frontlines and following their leadership for local solutions built to last. 

We will continue to engage with feminist responders in Turkey and Syria. We will continue to highlight how women’s and LGBTQI+ organizations are delivering services to those often missed by traditional humanitarian agencies. We will also be advancing discussions on how feminists define, prepare for and respond to the crises that are all too common in today’s world. And how, as the Equality Fund, we can continue to support this essential work. 

We invite you to move with us and show your support by donating in support of these feminist frontline organizations. Learn more

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