Success Story of

Esra Bengisu Şamlı Böke

Esra Bengisu Şamlı Böke is a 27-year old Turkish mother. She lives in Istanbul and she has a two-year-old son.

Bengisu has a diploma in Tourism Management. She has been actively working in the tourism industry since she started university. “Many people study at universities but cannot work in their fields,” she said. “I was lucky to continue to work in the sector I wanted.”

Like many other sectors, experience is essential in tourism. Bengisu worked hard to improve her skills in the field she loved before graduation in addition to the compulsory internship period. “Schools provide you with language and technical knowledge that you can use in your career,” she says. “Whether you are a high school graduate or a university graduate, it is an industry entirely based on experience.”

Bengisu, who went on maternity leave when the pandemic reached Turkey, never thought of turning to another sector for work after returning from her leave. When she started searching for a job again, she looked for jobs with weekend holidays and regular working hours to be with her child, but it was not easy in her field where people are requested to work on weekends and holidays.

“Another problem in the business world is the negative perception of women and mothers,” Bengisu explained. “I stopped working for two years,” she said. “When I came back to work I was anxious about the potential  negative perception because of not working in the past two years. Men do not have to worry about those issues as they can take their backpacks and go abroad because no one would judge them. Meanwhile, women can be subject to employers’ negative judgment because they will ask them whether they will leave their work again to take care of their children.”

Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through KFW-German Development Bank, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and United Work facilitates job placement of refugees and host community members in Istanbul. The project aims to improve  the beneficiaries’ access to formal job opportunities through identifying their skills and interests, matching them with relevant vacancies, paying the work permit fees for refugees, and subsidizing the salaries of female beneficiaries for the first two months to incentivize employers to hire more women. “United Work has helped me a lot to find a suitable job for me as a mother,” Bengisu said. She is currently working as a Reservation supervisor at Rotana Hotel.

“I am satisfied with my current job,” she said. “It has been two months and I can see myself stable in this job for a long time. I think the references provided to my employer had a crucial role in my recruitment since the tourism industry is newly recovering after the pandemic recession.”

There are still more people from the host and refugee communities like Bengisu who are struggling to find ways to integrate in the labor market. United Work and DRC are working together to increase access to sustainable sources of income for people affected by the displacement and contribute to their economic resilience. .