From the Participants
I was brought up with violence and beatings, all my life I was subjected to violence which I had not deserved. Mine was an arranged marriage. It was not an easy for me to even go for a walk. We live as an extended family, very crowded. In the past, I was the one who took care of all the domestic chores; everything was on my shoulders. No one else would bother and yet if I made the tiniest mistake, in paying the bills etc, I would get yelled at.
At the Community Center I heard that there was a program called Women’s Human Rights Training. I registered for the program right away. I started to discuss with my family and friends the things we have talked about and learned in the Women’s Human Rights Training; I was also trying to put these things into practice. After the Training I regained my self-confidence. I learned that I also have rights, and that I can use these rights. I realized there is no such thing as having to do everything my husband tells me. Today, my ideas and decisions are also taken seriously. When necessary, I argue with my husband, criticize him, even snap at him. My relation with the household has also started to change. Now they respect me, value my thoughts, and help out with the house chores. I have made it my goal to be useful first of all to myself, then to my community. It is definitely great that the Women’s Human Rights Training is being offered here in the Onur neighborhood, yet the process of changing our people is a slow one, it takes time.
The Municipality has a project called the “Green Zone”. I participate actively in this project. We are trying to make the hills green around here, planting trees. While working for this project, I participated in every program within the scope of the project. The people I’ve worked with regarded me as an initiating, outgoing and practical person and they suggested that I join the City Council of the Municipality of Karsiyaka. Now I am acting as a neighborhood representative in the City Council. That is, I am communicating the problems of our neighborhood to this Council; we are discussing these problems and searching for solutions together. This is a great opportunity for me.
I was not always such an initiating, outgoing woman who knew her rights. As I said, my self- confidence enhanced after the Women’s Human Rights Training Program. I also participated in the Family – Child Training Program. Later, I decided to go back to school and complete my formal education. I started to study, wanted to finish middle school via the Open Schooling. I passed the first and second semester examinations; and completed the first grade in one year. Now I am in the second year; later I will go to high school. I will also take courses to become a professional hairdresser. I imagine the schooling and the job will go well together. I believe that I will be successful. I think I will manage to get somewhere, with my own efforts and within my capability. The most important thing for me is my future. I do live my own life now, yes, but I do not know what the future will bring. For example, I do not even have insurance. I do not want to be dependent on my children in the future. My wish is to have my own home, my own spending money. I do not want to be dependent on my husband some day. I do not want to be in the position of saying “I am going back to the village”. I want to have economic freedom. Actually this is my reason to go back to school. The most difficult part is over. I have recognized my desires and abilities. From now on, I will continue doing my best and be successful. Soon it will be time to receive my high school diploma.
I am the first female child who went to school in my family. I finished primary school but I was not allowed to go to middle school. My family got me married to my uncle’s son. All my life I could not even walk out the door when I wanted. I discovered the Women’s Human Rights Training Program after I had my sixth child. Then both my family life and social life changed. I started to talk about this training and about our rights with every woman I knew. After a while, we started to gather together with my women relatives and neighbors to discuss women’s human rights. We would tell our husbands and elders that we are meeting for coffee or tea; they would not know what we were up to. I saw that you have your own rights, as a woman, as a mother, and that you have the right to know about these rights. Yet, I realized this fact during this training. It seems like I did not even have any rights before then.
We are eight people in our household. There were eight mouths to be fed, and only my husband had a job. While participating in the training, I decided I wanted to have a job too. And I was not the only one, many women in our training group were thinking like me. We came together around our common needs and formed a group. We met with friends working at KEDEV (Women’s Labor Support Foundation), and figured that we can start a production workshop with them.
Formerly, I would not think it possible even to tell my husband that I had such a wish. Yet, once the person finds her own desire acceptable, she is able to express herself. I told my husband, I want to work, I will go out and work alongside with other women and men and I will surely converse with them too.
We started working as a group after the Women’s Human Rights Training. Our main subject is the protection of women’s economic rights. We made a comprehensive survey in our neighborhood. The results showed that there is no place for children to play or to receive education. Yet there is such a big need for it. We considered opening a kindergarten for the children.
We had to start somewhere. First of all our group should have a formal identity, an official status. We decided to become a cooperative. We conducted a market research to determine what we might produce, and we decided to make candles. With this aim our group prepared a project and we presented the project to the governorship. The governorship accepted our project. Now we are producing candles.
When we first started this job, we did not even have a studio, we were making the candles at home. Then we rented a small store. The Municipality paid for its rent for five months. Until the opening ceremony of our studio, no one would believe that we were actually going to work. Once the Governor showed up at our opening ceremony, congratulations and compliments started to flow in.
By the way, there have been many people who tried to hinder our work. There are many women’s organizations but they do not have solidarity among themselves. Once you start working on an issue, everybody else starts doing the same thing. Why do not they take care of some other problem, if I am already taking care of this one?
We want to become a cooperative to have an identity. This is our short- term goal. Currently we are in the process of foundation, in consultation with our lawyer. In order to solve the marketing problem, we made contacts with the wholesalers. The quality of training and the variety of our candles have improved. We have stands at hotels and meetings and take the orders of the local shops and supermarkets. Most importantly, we do everything ourselves. Be it the production or the sales, we take care of it all. There is no middleman. Thus we named our studio the “Group of Trust”. We shut our doors to trouble.
We will conduct another market research. We have to find out the demands of the market besides candles, and see what else we can produce. We might also engage in the mosaic and screening wire production. We are currently determining the resource people and institutions that can support us in all this work. In the past, I was hardly able to leave the house, but now I am talking about making connections with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, the City Directorate, and private firms.
The number of women who join our group is ever increasing. Our cooperative will offer these women an opportunity to satisfy their own needs. We will enable women to have a work life separate from home. Our goal is to promote the social and economic status and awareness of women in Diyarbak?r. We aim to bring women into the production process and take them out of the home. I pushed the door open, I have a job, I have a group of people I work with, we have goals and plans, and here I am in Istanbul representing my group.
I was born and raised in Sivas (a city in Eastern Turkey). Our society, our elders, including my own mother, taught us that we, girls and women, are always second-class citizens. When we moved to Çanakkale (a city in North Western Turkey), I participated in the Women’s Human Rights Training Program. During the training, I started to recognize myself primarily as a woman and definitely not as a second- class person. Acknowledging myself as a woman, a human being and an individual had huge effects on my relations with my family, my social circle. Most important of all, this acknowledgment affected my self- reflection. I became a confident, more liberated woman and person. I decided I wanted to have a profession. I wanted to find a job to meet my own needs and desires.
By the end of the Training, our training group decided to establish a women’s association in Çanakkale. At the foundation stage, we were constantly holding weekly meetings both among ourselves and with various institutions in Çanakkale. We had one of our meetings with the Mayor. We communicated to him our wishes and demands. Our foremost demand was the provision of job opportunities for women. We told the Mayor that “as women we also want to work, but as we are not party members we cannot find jobs in the municipality”. The Mayor in reply, said that if a woman among us applies for a job at the municipality, he will immediately hire her. As it happens, he was actually looking for two cleaning personnel to work at the municipality. Furthermore, he complained about the shortage of bus drivers at the Municipality of Çanakkale. They were in urgent need for a heavy vehicle driver. He said that if there happens to be a woman among us who wants to work as a bus driver at the municipality, she can start working right away.
I wanted to get a job and start working. Yet, until then I had never thought I could work as a driver. Plus, I did not even have a driver’s license. My friends at the Women’s Human Rights Training group supported me. So, the municipality was looking for a driver. I was anxious to see if they would actually hire me, a woman, as a driver. I mentioned being a professional driver to my husband. He was very surprised and wondered where the idea came from. He said “Do not dare, this cannot be”.
But it did. First of all, I enrolled in the driver’s ed course. At the time we were also busy trying to establish our association. Finally, I passed the driver’s test and headed straight for the Mayor with my license in my pocket. He did not have a chance; he had a promise to keep that he had made in front of so many women. I started my first paid job as a heavy vehicle driver in the Municipality of Çanakkale. The day I started my job was also the opening day of our association.
I have been working in the Municipality of Çanakkale for 2.5 years. I am the only woman worker at the Municipality with official status. I drove the office car for a long time. For the last three months I have been working at a desk job. I keep climbing up the ladder in my job.
Mine was an arranged marriage at the age of seventeen, decided by families and neighbors. I lived with emotional and economic violence from my husband and his family for years. I could not go shopping on my own; I was not even allowed to leave the apartment. My husband would take me out for walks, my arm in his. For years I watched people, sitting at my window, from behind the curtains. For years I did everything my husband or my son ordered me to do. They used to mock me; they did not care for me. I was not treated as a human being. I was not allowed to read the newspaper even; they used me as though I was a robot. I had forgotten how to think. If I were to go see a doctor, I would not be able to explain my problem.
When I first came to the Community Center, I could not even say why I was there: I could not explain my troubles to anyone. Instead I went back home, crying. When I came back to the center I enrolled in the Women’s Human Rights Training program. Then I started to speak, to talk about my problems. At first, it felt very strange to be outside, and even to see other people, after all those years of staying home, and walking around in my husband’s arm. I started to live in the real sense only two years ago.
As I was participating in the Women’s Human Rights Training, I started to read the newspaper in secret. I noticed that all the employment ads were for middle or high school graduates. I had dropped out from school when I was in the seventh grade. My husband had only finished middle school and he did not even have insurance. I started to worry about how to raise my children, if he were to die. Thus, I decided to complete my education. With the support of the training program and that of my friends in the group, I started the Open Schooling. I was working as a cleaning lady then, at this woman’s apartment. She started to tutor me on school work. My husband was not giving me any money, and I was not able to ask for it. That is, I did not have money even for the bus. I walked to work for hours every morning, carrying my daughter on my back. After I finished my work, we would have a class with this woman. Whatever I managed to do, I did it under these circumstances. My husband did not know about any of this. I was secretly studying at home and hiding my books behind the couch. On the day of my final exam, my husband beat me, and with tears still in my eyes I went to take the exam. Finally I passed all the exams and received my middle and high school diplomas. My husband and the whole family were shocked; it was a huge surprise for all of them.
As the women in the Women’s Human Rights Training group, we developed solidarity. During the program, throughout the entire process I went through, I always knew that these women would run to help me when I am in trouble, that they would understand me and support me in everything I did, in each new step I took. In this process and together with the women in the training group, I learned to defend my own rights. Now, I know that I have rightful wishes, and that I am not alone in what I have experienced.
And most important of all, I now live for myself. I had not recognized my own individual existence, desires; I had forgotten about the people out there and how to talk to them. Now I travel and talk to my heart’s desire, and I write freely, without fear. I no longer want to die in silence.