We celebrate International Women’s Day with a trip highlighting social enterprise and women-led business, that also takes in the sights of Istanbul, the Antalya coast and Cappadocia
My clumsy fingers lose hold of the thread and it unravels, spiralling out of control. Back to square one. I pick up the wire frame and wind the brightly coloured cotton around it once more. Aasma, tasked with showing me how to handcraft intricate earrings, is patient with my mistakes. But then, she knows all about things falling to pieces, and having to start again. Arriving in Istanbul as a refugee from Syria, she didn’t find it easy to pick up the threads of a new life. Work permits for displaced people are hard to come by, so she had no hope of finding a secretarial job, the career she’d had at home.
Here at the Olive Tree, a community centre on a narrow lane in Istanbul’s Capa district, she found a way to begin again. Gathered around a long wooden table, while their kids play downstairs in the children’s centre, more than 40 women refugees embroider bags, print T-shirts and hand-coil drop earrings – with the tagline “drop earrings, not bombs” – for their own fashion brand, Muhra. The proceeds help keep their families afloat financially.