Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways undertakes its work with the aspiration and demand for a world in which women’s human rights and gender equality are intrinsically recognized, realized and safeguarded.
As Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, the CORE VALUES we espouse in our work are:
- Autonomy: WWHR works independently from any political party, government or religious institution.
- Audacity: WWHR strives for excellence, while being creative, bold and courageous. WWHR does not shy away from issues that are seen as controversial or complex if it sees they will make a positive contribution.
- Equality and non-discrimination: WWHR works towards the full equality of women and the eradication of all discrimination based on gender and sexuality. Employing and promoting feminist values toward the full equality of all people, WWHR is against all discriminations based on gender, sexual orientation, class, age, religion, ethnicity, nationality, marital status, physical or mental ability, language, or other factors. WWHR takes due caution that its work respects the human rights of all people and the eradication of all sorts of discrimination.
- Solidarity and networking: WWHR is committed to work as a part of collective movement connected at different levels to strengthen women’s voices, power and influence. Being aware of the universality of patriarchy, and the value of diversity, WWHR values solidarity and networking, and establishes links among different levels (local-national-regional-international) of the women’s movement as well as with other marginalized groups.
- Participation: WWHR strives for participatory democracy and operates within participatory decision-making structures at all levels of its work. It is open to changes and innovations within the framework of gender equality and democratic citizenship.
- Non-hierarchy: Following feminist principles, WWHR strives for horizontal structures and operates in non-hierarchical forms, working, talking and relating on equal grounds. WWHR, values the open and equal relations and communication approach in all its own structures as well as in its relations with other organizations, platforms and networks.
- Anti-militarism: WWHR is anti-militarist and is against all forms of violent politics and practices.
- Anti-homophobia: WWHR is against all homophobic approaches, policies and practices.
- Respect: WWHR respects diversity, labor, experience, knowledge, and different opinions.
- Transparency and accountability: WWHR embraces honesty, transparency and accountability at all levels of its work. In all its interactions, WWHR strives for responsible use of resources, fairness, integrity, openness and accountability and therefore maintains necessary mechanisms in its operations. WWHR believes in the power of and is open to constructive criticisms.
Our Solution Strategies and Priorities
Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways is observing—with great concern—that conservatism, militarism and violence have been on the rise in Turkey and around the globe in recent years. Through the enforcement of conservative policies, women are subjugated through institutions such as marriage, religion, family, and any breach of traditional roles may be regarded as a threat and grounds for ostracizing. The media is stringing along the trend of increased conservatism and acts more and more as a transmitting instrument of this approach. Nationalism and militarism continue to adversely affect women’s human rights and the women’s movement. The alarming increase in women’s rights violations and violence indicates that Turkey is rapidly approaching a record high in these aspects. Women and women’s organizations are struggling to find the time, opportunity or resources to combat any form of violence—including its physical, sexual, economic or emotional dimensions—in face of this catastrophic situation which keeps magnifying by the day with new news of brutality against women. As women all together, we have to struggle against this sharply defined patriarchal structure that readily kills women taking away their right to life.
The legal framework, which has undergone important reforms thanks to the efforts of the women’s movement, still needs improvement: there is still need for legal change on issues such as “honor killings”, sexual orientation, obscenity laws, and property acquired during marriage. Additionally, existent laws are not adequately enforced and required steps are not taken for the implementation of laws and realization of further necessary reforms. For instance, public servants such as police officers, public prosecutors and judges fail to enforce laws; the necessary budgets and structures are not set in place; trainings of relevant officials are not given due attention. In the meantime, there are also attempts to rescind existent rights: attempts to ban abortion; offering sentence reductions to rapists in case they marry rape survivors; bringing in mediators in violence against women cases; introducing chemical castration as a potential method to deal with rapists, etc. Furthermore, the women’s movement continues to meet resistance in its demand for the adoption of laws and reforms that are foreseen by international conventions and treaties Turkey is party to.
Under these circumstances, the fact that activism and organizing—which are perhaps more vital than ever—have also gotten more challenging and dangerous is adversely affecting WWHR-New Ways’ activities, as it is all organizations working in the sphere of human rights. Freedom of speech and expression are under severe pressure and attack in Turkey. There are cases of detention or arrest of feminist activists and court cases to close down women’s rights and LGBT organizations. In such an environment, the women’s movement is having difficulties articulating its demands for necessary measures to realize women’s human rights, and even when it is does, media opts to disregard its voice and not report this, thus forestalling extensive public outreach.
Despite many internal challenges, the women’s movement is persistent to continue its committed struggle.
In this environment, women’s organizations—whose basic mission is in very general terms to support and empower women—have a lot of work to do. Women in Turkey are mostly in agreement about the need to empower women to combat violence against women. However, another problem area is that women’s organizations experience countless difficulties in terms of human resources, financial resources, and time. In this context, there are not enough women’s organizations that advocate and struggle for policies toward women’s liberation and empowerment in line with the women’s own choices. .
Recent issues of debate and differences in opinion within the women’s movement in Turkey have unfortunately weakened the reflexes and drive to undertake joint action. Furthermore, despite the longstanding need, the movement is being negligent in establishing common principles, and thus at times falling short of taking joint action.
Women’s organizations in Turkey face challenges in simultaneously assessing the local, national, and international settings, due to various reasons such as limited comprehension and use of international mechanisms primarily due to language barriers; and shortcomings in making a holistic analysis of links between local-national-international developments. The movement is also getting more conservative in terms of its discourses, methods, tools, and the generation gap within the movement is not helping solve the problem.
Given this context, it is our analysis that WWHR-New Ways should be operating with a more multi-faceted and multi-pronged approach than before. Women’s presence and voices being heard at all levels (local, national, regional and international); their demands being integrated into all stages of policymaking and debate is of utmost importance, as well as joint networking and advocacy to protect and advance women’s human rights. WWHR seeks to look at women’s human rights holistically, and believes that this approach is crucial at this juncture in time as militarism, conservatism and neo-liberalism increasingly attack women’s human rights from every angle. Without the production and sharing of feminist knowledge, it is neither easy to assess the impact of all these different factors, nor will it be possible to develop policies, political objectives and efficient tools of advocacy.
In light of this contextual analysis, WWHR-New Ways focuses on the following SOLUTION STRATEGIES:
- The first strategy for women, feminist organizations, and all other women’s organizations is to be equipped with rights awareness to be able to strongly resist the increasingly overwhelming actors and mechanisms of patriarchy, and continue to demand change.
- Another important strategy is to support and underscore women’s efforts to form effectual and autonomous organizations at the local and national levels. The strengthening of local grassroots organizing will also contribute to the strengthening of the women’s movement working at regional and national levels in Turkey.
- Despite the differences of opinion in the movement, it is still feminist women’s organizations that develop discourses, politics and practices on many vital issues. Consequently, increasing the number of feminist women’s organizations, and supporting and empowering existing ones must be a fundamental strategy.
- There is a need for the women’s movement to strengthen its means and practices of joint action, even though many groups diverge on certain issues. Solidarity and networking must remain the basic mobilization tool and special effort must be exerted to this end; for it will be the autonomous and civil women’s movement, united in joint action, which will ultimately put pressure on the government to fulfill its obligations.
To this end, WWHR-New Ways focuses on the following overarching PRIORITIES:
- In face of the social and political transformations taking place in Turkey and around the world, WWHR-New Ways seeks to proactively partake in these changing dynamics and develop new feminist discourses and strategies within this process, which it believes are vitally important.
- WWHR-New Ways considers solidarity building and networking on both national and international levels as an essential priority, and underlines the importance of using this method to establish pressure groups and joint advocacy campaigns that target public authorities.
- In order to eradicate women’s human rights violations, WWHR-New Ways works to advance women’s rights awareness and empowerment, which it considers essential.
- WWHR-New Ways supports women in their efforts to establish and sustain their own initiatives after gaining a rights awareness and aims to assist the capacity building of existing grassroots women’s rights organizations or groups (in areas such as strategic planning, fundraising, organizing, communications, etc.).
- In this context where the freedom of expression and women’s human rights are under severe threat, WWHR-New Ways finds it crucial that new communication strategies are set in place for effective outreach to influence and cooperate with broader target groups, institutions, and individuals including the media, public, academia, other rights-based movements, etc.
- WWHR-New Ways prioritizes initiating and supporting the more active participation of feminists and LGBT individuals in decision-making bodies in Turkey and on international level.