Joint ILO - UNDP Action Supports Local Crafts and Small Artisans in Turkey’s Gaziantep for Face Mask Production against the Coronavirus Pandemic

UNDP and ILO joint action with EU-KfW funding will support Gaziantep Union of Chambers of Artisans and Craftsmen (GESOB) with production and delivery of 25,000 face masks daily. The masks will meet the needs of thousands of workers in the city’s industrial zone where some 4,500 SMEs and 40,000 employees are currently operating. Apart from enabling accessibility to life-saving personal protective equipment to thousands, the action where both UN agencies cooperate also supports local socio-economic empowerment through skills development and vocational training of Syrian refugees in Gaziantep province, with refugee women and men employed in the production line at GESOB Vocational Training Center. The joint-action is being implemented as part of ILO’s and UNDP’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey.

News | 25 February 2021
© UNDP Turkey
Gaziantep – International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) joined forces in Gaziantep to support city’s small and medium size enterprises and workforce through production and delivery of nonwoven ultrasonic induced medical face masks and skills development with Gaziantep Union of Chambers of Artisan and Craftsmen (GESOB). At the first stage of the project, 1,000,000 high-quality face masks will be produced by trained locals and Syrian refugees at GESOB’s Vocational Training Center, in the city’s industrial zone where some 4,500 small and medium sized enterprises and 40,000 workforce currently operating with overall daily circulation of 100,000 people. The project also represents a good example of cooperation between specialized UN agencies, civil society, small and micro-scale companies and workforce in responding to the emerging local needs, to socio-economic empowerment and local economic development in pandemic context.

The protective masks will be distributed in the industrial zone free of charge to meet the increasing needs of the 4,500 SMEs with over 40,000 employees. In total, 100,000 people are circulating in the zone daily. In short, 1 million and in long term 6 million protective masks will be produced. Within the scope of the same ILO Project, 500 hand sanitizer stands have been already distributed to SMEs, each employing 5-10 people in average.


Boosting the local economy and protect workers in their workplace

SMEs in Gaziantep do not only contribute to the local economy, but also to the regional and national economies. This crucial role has recently become more visible under the large scale and unprecedented effects of COVID-19, which has proven not only to be a health crisis, but having severe impacts on the labour market. Enterprises of all sizes, particularly SMEs, had to modify their operations and implement measures to cope with a decrease in demand and minimize their costs. In addition, the enterprises have to implement additional measures to protect the health of their workers.

Seeing this as an effective response for COVID-19 prevention measures, the collaboration between ILO and UNDP started to support SMEs in protecting workers in their workplace. This collaboration will also contribute to the institutions’ capacity development in and beyond the COVID-19 response context as the equipment will be handed over to the GESOB.

Within the scope of the collaboration, the protective masks production and their distribution to SMEs will be financed by UNDP Turkey’s European Union funded Project. Skills development and providing decent job opportunities to produce masks will be supported by the Promoting ‘Decent Work Opportunities for Syrians under Temporary Protection and Turkish Citizens’ Project of the ILO Office for Turkey. The ILO’s project is financed by the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW Development Bank and aims to facilitate access to the formal labour market for Syrians under Temporary Protection and Turkish citizens to strengthen their resilience and self-reliance.

Both projects operate actively in Gaziantep, where Syrian and Turkish workers live and work. Gaziantep city ranks second in hosting Syrians, after İstanbul. With over 450,000 Syrian nationals, representing one quarter of the province’s population, Gaziantep is also seen as a model for living and working together in harmony. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic –and the public health measures introduced to prevent the spread of the virus– have seriously impacted the already vulnerable socio-economic situation of Syrians and host communities in the region.

New skills and jobs to meet the dynamic demands in and beyond COVID-19 times

The Director of the ILO Office for Turkey, Mr. Numan Özcan, highlighting the critical importance of promoting decent work opportunities for both Syrians and host communities, said:

To support all workers to gain a living in decent work conditions and protect workers’ health in their workplace, we are happy to keep on working with our partners and invest in people’s capacities. Our cooperation, aligned with the national COVID-19 response strategy and human centred approach, is vital for creating the conditions for improved productivity, sustained and inclusive enterprises and decent work”.

The project aims to strengthen resilience of small and medium sized enterprises and their workforce in the industrial zone with production and delivery of PPEs against the pandemic and to provide decent jobs opportunities in medical equipment production sector through skilled workforce among Syrians and host community members. The sustainability of the joint-project is also supported by the two UN entities and GESOB, since it is expected that Center’s production capacity to hit some 6 million (1+5 million) face masks in the latter stages of the project, with vocational and technical training and employing workforce among Syrians in Gaziantep and Turkish host community members. Under the joint project, UNDP has provided the machinery and technical equipment, whereas ILO Turkey Office is covering personnel expenses and consumables, administrative affairs and laboratory related personnel and expenses by GESOBso.

The launching ceremony which took place at GESOB-Vocational Training Center in Gaziantep brought together Gaziantep Governor Davut Gül, Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin, representatives from the ILO Office for Turkey and UNDP Turkey, GESOB President Ömer Küsbeoğlu, Gaziantep business and industry community, entrepreneurs and members of the local labour organizations, civil society and local press members.

Underlining the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises in local economic development in his opening speech, UNDP Turkey Deputy Resident Representative Mr. Sukhrob Khojimatov said:

As the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), we are proud to support Gaziantep, Gaziantep’s business world, tradesmen and craftsmen during the pandemic and to cooperate with our local partners for sustainable development and socio-economic empowerment which are our missions”.

According to GESOB representatives, the face masks that will be produced under the project will be at the highest hygiene and quality standards thanks to the latest technology and fully automated machinery, equipment, raw materials and the trained workforce at the Vocational Center. The masks produced under the project will reach artisans, craft people and SMEs, small/micro-sized enterprises with pressing socio-economic conditions in Gaziantep province.

The machine and equipment at the production line are composed of one set of planar face mask machine, one set of feeding machine and two sets of ear loop machines, and processes are automatically completed, including the cloth’ edge folding/ covering, nose-bridge bars’ quantitative cutting/ positioning., Through the conveyor, face masks are conveyed to two external ear loop machines, the ear loops’ welding & forming by the ultrasonic, the counting, the final products’ discharging, and the packaging.

© UNDP Turkey
GESOB, the artisan and craft-people union in Gaziantep, is located in Gaziantep Industrial Zone, namely “Small Industrial Zone”, representing 4,500 micro, small and medium sized enterprises, entrepreneurs and a workforce around 40,000 in the province. Although companies, artisans and craft people under its umbrella are relatively small-and micro scale, craft and artisan unions are deeply rooted in society and play major roles in economic activity at local level in the developing world, with high potential of creating decent jobs and livelihood opportunities for thousands, especially for people living with low income and under dire socio-economic conditions.

Gaziantep, Turkey’s south-eastern province bordering Syria, is a fast-growing city with 2.2 million inhabitants and also a center of the manufacturing industry with strong entrepreneurship and commerce culture. Micro, small and medium sized enterprises, local artisans and craft people play important role in local economic activity and livelihood opportunities in city’s domestic economy. The city hosts the second largest population of Syrians under Temporary Protection (SuTPs), with more than 450,000.

UNDP-ILO joint actions will guide the business and private sector in long term on building stronger, sustainable and resilient response to COVID-19 with a focus on responsible business practices and on how to turn the international standards into actions in times of COVID-19.

© UNDP Turkey

For more information:

Rusen Inceoglu, Communications Officer, UNDP Turkey Syria Crisis Response and Resilience Portfolio,

Kıvanç Özvardar, Communications Officer, ILO Turkey Office,