Water Lily Women's Cooperative

This Entry has been submitted.

Water Lily Women's Cooperative

Istanbul, Turkey
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Selma Demirelli is spearheading the first women’s housing cooperative in Turkey operated exclusively by women. She broadly expands the rights of women and children by empowering them as property owners with full citizenship and financial stability.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

women could become property owners with full citizenship & financial stability by working in groups to establish their own housing cooperatives?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

While Turkey has equal rights of inheritance and divorce, there are major gender inequalities in property ownership, literacy, and political representation. Approximately 10% of women own property and only recently gained an equal share of the family’s assets in a divorce. Particularly at risk are single women without access to good housing and widows, who are not typically entitled to the property, which limits financial stability.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Selma founded Turkey’s first women’s housing cooperative to empower women as property owners with full citizenship and financial stability. Selma organized local women in a series of development, learning, and income-generation activities then formed the housing cooperative where every step in construction, planning, and legal work is governed by the women members. Beyond satisfying the basic need for shelter, their involvement in governing a housing cooperative helps them to learn key principles of finance, business development, loans, and urban planning, that they can draw on for future community or business ventures.
Impact: How does it Work

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The cooperative initially had 155 members. The group searched for a place on state-owned land and persuaded the ministry of development and housing to sell them the property with a low-interest long-term payment for 48 units. Each woman took on a US$12,000 mortgage for the parcel and all are involved in the design, architecture, and urban planning of the development. They have also bargained to the find best prices on building materials and contractors. They went to local banks for loans to complete the project. While initially reluctant to give large loans to a group of women, Selma convinced the bank by selling them the PR advantage of helping the first women’s cooperative in Turkey. The structures are nearly finished and the women plan to move in later this year.

Founding Story

Selma, a survivor of the Turkish earthquakes, was active in rescue operations and reconstruction efforts following the disaster. She was engaged in Crisis Group, established and run by citizens. After witnessing how women and children were especially impacted by the loss of their homes and sometimes families, she decided to work as a project coordinator for one of the biggest foundations in Turkey. While there, she began to think about ways to bring lasting economic stability and independence to women—in the event of another disaster or unforeseen crises—ultimately elevating their societal status.