HREP as a Tool of Social Transformation
Field research on “women’s human rights in Turkey” and “domestic violence” conducted by Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways in Ankara, İstanbul, and East and Southeast Anatolia in 1993 – 1996 revealed two facts in the most striking manner: Women did not know their legal rights and did not use them and women’s independent grassroots organizing was extremely limited. In line with the outcomes of these research and identified needs, WWHR-New Ways developed the Human Rights Education Program for Women (HREP) in 1995.
Pilot implementations of the program were realized by WWHR-New Ways in 1995-96 in Ümraniye and Gülsuyu districts of İstanbul, and in 1997 in Gaziantep, Diyarbakır and Şanlıurfa provinces of Southeast Anatolia. With the objective of making the program accessible to women all across Turkey, WWHR-New Ways established a partnership protocol with the Ministry of Family and Women’s Affairs in 1998. Through this partnership, since 1998 HREP has been implemented in Community Centers of the Social Services and Child Protection Agency (SHÇEK), and since 2005 in the Family Counseling Centers of SHÇEK. The program is implemented in cooperation with the social workers, psychologists, education and health professionals who are HREP trainers, working with great dedication in these centers. As of 2012 this cooperation is being continued with the Ministry of Family and Social Policies that assumed also the duties of SHÇEK which was abolished in 2011.
Since 2002 women’s organizations and local initiatives founded by HREP participants have also become program implementation partners. Following the program that emphasizes the importance of independent women’s organizing and the women’s movement, HREP participants have launched about 20 different women’s organizations or initiatives in 13 provinces. In 2002 HREP participants from Çanakkale Association to Appraise Women’s Handiwork (EL-DER) and the Van Women’s Association (VAKAD) participated in the Trainer Training and became local institutional partners of the program. In 2005 Diyarbakır Research and Implementation Center for Women’s Affairs (DİKASUM), followed by Ayvalık Independent Women’s Initiative, Van Life Women Environment Culture and Management Cooperative (YAKA-KOOP), and İzmir Metropolitan Municipality Women’s Counseling Center in 2008 joined this cooperation. Following the 2010 HREP Trainer Training Marmaris Association of Solidarity with Women, Muğla Karya Women’s Solidarity Association, Kırıkkale Women’s Solidarity Association, Kırıkkale Women’s Platform, İzmir Bayraklı Branch of the Turkish Women’s Union and in North Cyprus the Feminist Atelier began to implement HREP in their provinces. Following the HREP Trainer Training held in 2013, in addition to independent women’s organizations such as Muş Association of Solidarity with Women, İzmir Women’s Solidarity Association, Karadeniz (Black sea) Women’s Platform, Antalya Women’s Counseling and Solidarity Association, numerous women’s counseling and solidarity centers of municipalities also became part of the HREP solidarity network as institutional partners.
HREP is a training program with the overarching objective of enabling women to become aware of how laws and patriarchal social norms shape their lives both on the national and the international levels, learn their rights and the laws as well as develop a critical awareness about them; acquire the skills to exercise their rights and be empowered to catalyze social change. Among the main goals of the program are to raise participants’ awareness on gender discrimination and women’s human rights violations, and emphasize the importance of independent women’s organizing and the women’s movement in the struggle against this discrimination and rights violations. As such, HREP constitutes an intersection point of different spheres such as law, education, gender, personal development and political action.
The premise of the program is that when provided with the opportunity to learn their rights and the support to equip themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills, women can find the power to individually or collectively take action, for instance to exercise a right or resist the violation of a right. By supporting women to be active citizens in the democratization process of Turkey, HREP aims for women to advance towards a meaningful participation in a democratic society by working together with other actors in the civil society and the public sphere.
Core objectives of the Human Rights Education Program for Women can be enumerated as follows:
• Informing women on women’s human rights and the national laws and universal norms regarding these rights,
• Enabling women to become aware of their rights as equal citizens,
• Encouraging women to take collective action in cases of women’s human rights violations to call for the state and society to develop solutions and be more respectful of these rights,
• Supporting the protection and implementation of women’s legal rights in daily life,
• Raising women’s awareness on how traditions, customs that is “spoken laws” restrict or violate human rights,
• Setting the necessary grounds for women to participate in discussions and create action plans geared towards changing these traditions, written and unwritten laws and norms,
• Creating a safe environment for women to be able to discuss their problems and share their life experiences in solidarity,
• Enabling women to be able to see themselves as active individuals who can affect social change at the local and national levels,
• Providing women with the opportunity to develop organizing skills at the personal and collective level that will assist them in mobilizing to meet the needs and overcome the problems they have identified,
• Providing support for women’s grassroots organizing.
HREP is designed to enable participants to develop the following fundamental skills upon completion of the program:
• Raised awareness of women’s human rights, and cognitive changes paving the way for increasing competence and self-confidence;
• Further and effective exercise of women’s human rights and primarily the freedom of expression, and rights to education and employment;
• Overcoming physical, emotional and economic violence;
• Recognition of the rights of the child within the family with a gender perspective;
• Taking steps towards grassroots organizing (holding meetings, collective solution seeking, assuming responsibility, practicing the right to assembly, etc.).
Developed based on participatory methods and small closed group workshop methodology, HREP consists of two stages. The first stage is the 12 days long HREP Trainer Training conducted with 25 participants. In the second stage the group facilitators who have completed this training form their own local groups, and conduct three to four hour long training workshops every week for four months with a group of 20-25 participant women under the supervision of WWHR-New Ways.
Monitoring, evaluation and coordination processes can also be regarded as additional components of these stages. WWHR-New Ways monitors the HREP groups and registers the information on the groups to the database on a regular basis. Furthermore, site supervision visits are conducted to every new trainer who has opened a group. Additionally; HREP trainers, officials of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, independent local women’s organizations founded by HREP participants which are also institutional partners, and the WWHR team convene on a regular basis in evaluation, capacity building and coordination meetings to share experiences on the problems encountered by the trainers in the field, needs assessments, solution strategies, new developments, and future planning. In this respect, the program also continues to serve as a local women’s solidarity network at the national scale.
The participatory quality is of utmost importance for this program. The experiences women share with each other in the group workshops, the opportunity to express themselves by participating in the exercises and discussions, and the interactions within the group are as crucial an aspect of the training as the information relayed by the group facilitators.
HREP is a program that extends to women from all walks of life; ranging from women who dropped out of school or never attended to those who received higher education; from women who work inside the home to professional businesswomen. The language and methodology of the program is geared toward conducting a group workshop where women can become aware of their common problems and develop common solutions for these problems. The program is further enriched and improved with each passing day owing to the suggestions and feedback of the women who participate in the group workshops.
Along with the Trainers’ Manual prepared by Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways for the HREP group facilitators, various visual and written training materials targeting the participants are also used during the program.
Cities where the Human Rights Education Program for Women is Implemented
(as of February 2014)
Designed as a tool to provide the necessary knowledge and skills for women to create their own strategies as empowered individuals both at the personal and social level, HREP enables women to transform the awareness they have experienced and the knowledge they have acquired on human rights into action and organizing through its comprehensive content and the feminist methodology it follows. Human Rights Education Program for Women (HREP) consisting of a total of 16 modules held once a week includes the following topics:
1. Introduction, Presentation of the Human Rights Education Program for Women, and Needs Assessment
• What do I expect from this training program?
• What will we gain by attending an education program together as women; what are the benefits of participating in a long-term workshop?
2. Women’s Human Rights
• What are human rights, what do we mean by “women’s human rights”?
• What rights do women have in Turkey and throughout the world?
3. Constitutional and Civil Rights
• Is it the responsibility of the state to safeguard our rights?
• What does our Constitution say about women’s rights and gender equality?
• According to the Civil Code, what are my rights in marriage, regarding the maintenance of the marital union, divorce, custody of children and inheritance?
4. Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence
• What is violence against women? Are there different types of violence, other than battery?
• How and why are women subjected to violence at home, at work and in the street?
5. Strategies Against Violence
• Is it possible to eradicate violence?
• Are courts the only way? What other ways might there be?
• How can we stop the violence using these methods?
6. Women’s Economic Rights (Section I)
• Are housework, childcare, the care of the elderly and the sick duties or work? What contributions do they have to the economy and the society?
• Why is it that women receive no compensation for doing this work?
• What would happen if women refused to be the only ones to do all this work at home?
7. Women’s Economic Rights (Section II)
• Do I want to work at an income generating job?
• What rights do women have in the workplace? What do our laws say?
• Are there any state organizations or non-governmental organizations in my province that assist women to join the labor force?
8. Communication Skills (Section I)
• What is communication? Is it talking? Hearing? Listening? Or is it, perhaps, all of the above…?
• Am I able to express myself? Am I able to understand others?
9. Communication Skills (Section II)
• Does communication stop if we think differently from the other person or if we want different things? If not, how does it continue…?
• How is communication built on a basis of mutual respect without being judgmental?
10. Gender Sensitive Parenting and the Rights of the Child
• Do my children know their own rights?
• How can I equally protect the rights of my daughter and my son?
• Did I experience gender discrimination as a child?
• Am I discriminating against my children based on gender?
11. Women and Sexuality (Section I)
• How can we talk about and access information on sexuality?
• Do we know our bodies, our sexual organs?
12. Women and Sexuality (Section II)
• How does sexuality affect our physical or psychological health?
• How can women claim their bodily and sexual rights?
13. Women and Reproductive Rights
• How can we decide, with our own free will, whether or not to have children, and if we do want to have children, when and how many children to have?
• What rights do we have during pregnancy, labor and following the birth?
• What are the advantages, risks and side effects of different birth control methods? How can we choose the method that suits us best?
14. Women and Politics
• Who makes the decisions that concern us, who puts them to practice? As women, to what extent are we included in this process?
• How can we effectively use our rights to vote and be elected?
• How can we, as women, be the ones that make decisions, laws and develop and implement programs that concern women?
15. Feminism and the Women’s Movement
• Is feminism merely a number of views put forth by a few women?
• What are the prejudices about feminism? What are the facts?
• How has the women’s movement in the world and in Turkey struggled to secure women’s human rights?
16. Women’s Grassroots Organizing
• How can we establish solidarity in the struggle to secure our needs and rights? How can we organize?
• What are the benefits of solidarity and organizing for us and our community?
Places of Implementation
• City Directorates of Family and Social Policies
• Çanakkale Association to Appraise Women’s Handiwork (EL-DER)
• Feminist Atelier (North Cyprus)
• Marmaris Association of Solidarity with Women
• Van Women’s Association (VAKAD)