Istanbul&I Volunteer Engagement with UNICEF and UNDP

Istanbul&I volunteers Rawana, Imad, Haya, and Aimen represented the community at last month’s Istanbul Development Dialogues Breakthrough to 2030, hosted by the UNDP.

As Istanbul&I grows, our involvement and partnerships with other NGOs also increases! In the past few weeks Istanbul&I volunteers met with UNICEF officers about the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) Program in Turkey, and hosted Barbora Galvankova from the UNDP to give a talk on women’s empowerment and technology.


Our volunteers, Imad, Haya, and Rawana represented Istanbul&I with UNICEF’s Monitoring and Evaluation Field Officer and Communication Officer to discuss our community’s experience with the CCTE program which aims to support refugee students in Turkey. They provided feedback and observations about students that they have worked with and their financial status to inform program improvements and update the central authorities. Relationships such as this show the strength of our Istanbul&I community as a resource to support programs such as these in Istanbul and Turkey as a whole.


Attendees listened to the presentation by Barbora Galvankova.

In the same week, Barbora Galvankova, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Programme Specialist for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States regions, came to our office to present on women and technology. One of our programs, Sustainable Engineering Hub, has started inviting leaders from Istanbul working on technical and social and environmental issues to provide workshops and talks to our community.


Barbora discussed the work of the UNDP on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, highlighting activities such as girls coding summits in Kosovo and Uzbekistan to develop skills and improve employability, a solar panel cooperative to provide heat for homes in villages in Tajikistan, and hackathons for the UN’s work on ending violence against women  in Sarajevo. In Turkey, examples were given for fisherwomen in Antalya to use technology to identify and document invasive toxic fish species that are now present in the Mediterranean, as well as many projects specifically for integration and job and language training for Syrian women.


Barbora encouraged attendees to ‘build community, don’t be afraid to reach out’.

For Barbora, technology can benefit women’s lives through time saving, learning skills, connecting with one another, providing information, gaining control of finances, creating jobs, and much more. Technology can also help safeguard traditions. She gave examples of how in Macedonia and Peru, local women are using phones to document rain and plant growth, crucial to not only helping preserve traditional agriculture practices, but also help provide data to understand the impacts of climate change. As she noted, ‘human creativity is amazing, and we all need to use it’.


The discussion got a bit more personal as attendees discussed their experiences working and studying in fields of engineering, data analytics, and water science. Barbora encouraged attendees to not be afraid to share their power and reminded that ‘you can never achieve one thing by yourself, it’s thanks to others that you are who you are.’


Her words were deeply relevant to attendees and Istanbul&I as a whole. She encouraged attendees to ‘build community, don’t be afraid to reach out. We all have to trust ourselves with our personal craziness, our hopes, our dreams.’ As Istanbul&I develops as an NGO we hope to trust ourselves with out personal goals of building social cohesion, developing connection between different groups in Istanbul, and hopefully making positive changes in the communities we work in.


By Franny Varty


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