Tag Archive: women’s rights

One of our final briefings was with an NGO called Çağdaş Yaşami Destekleme Derneği, which in English literally translates to “Association for Support of Contemporary Living”. The main objective is to provide education to those who may otherwise go uneducated (young girls in Eastern Turkey mainly) to provide them an opportunity to progress and to build a more modern society.

They have numerous scholarship programs that provide for secondary and tertiary education for girls. In Turkey schooling is compulsory up to the age of 14. Eastern Turkey is still extremely conservative in comparison to Western Turkey (Western Turks will often call them conservatives and sometimes even terrorists due to significant presence of Kurds) and it is not uncommon for young girls to be pulled out of educational institutions in favour of married life.

We all know that in many cultures it is the mother who raises the children. It is generally the mother who stays home, the mother who takes them to school or activities and the mother who spends the most time with them. In cultures like that in bilingual households the children are most likely to speak the language that the mother speaks fluently.

It is extremely important for social progress that children have an educated mother and it is even more important for social progress that children have female role models to look up to and respect.

Apparently, a common outcome is that the women that they help to educate often become teachers and move back to their villages to teach. Needless to say, this generally leads to positive outcomes as it gives children a female authority figure, gives an educated adult woman as a role model and can be inspiring for the girls of the community.

It was very interesting to hear the perspective of a woman from Ankara about the treatment of women in Turkey. Obviously Turkey has issues with human rights, civil rights and women’s rights, but it seems to be particularly bad in Eastern Turkey due to the conservativism of the region. You will hear many Turks say how they are a modern nation and equal rights allegedly apply and all that lovely stuff, but to hear a woman who experiences the plight of females in Eastern Turkey on a regular basis it makes you realise just how divided the country is and how little development has seemed to happen to Eastern Turkey since Ataturk changed the country.


Briefing: Intercultural Dialogue Platform

I’m going to attempt to not bore you too much regarding our briefings, so if you aren’t interested just don’t look at any of the blogs that start with briefing, but I would like to give a brief background and I would like to give my opinions and thoughts on the briefings.

The Intercultural Dialogue Platform is a NGO (Non-Government Organisation) headed by a man by the name of Fethullah Gülen. This man is actually exiled from Turkey due to the fact that if he returns he will be tried by the government for his “un-Turkish” ideals and his religious opinion in government. This idea of “insulting Turkishness” will be touched on in a different blog.

This groups was really fascinating to me. Their purpose originally was to establish a dialogue between the Muslims (predominant in Turkey), Christians and Jews in Turkey to find common ground, determine what could be done to benefit everyone and what could be done for a more peaceful interaction between the different religions. The actual board of this NGO is made up of 20 some people I am told from different sects of Christianity, Catholic priests and bishops, and Muslim Imam’s.

This group has seven main platforms and the main platform is dialogue, but they have a very recent platform which includes women which actually is in regard to the perception of women in the media (very different discussion from the women’s education group we met with). This group’s opinion of women in the media is that women are sexualised and this needs to stop. As a VERY liberal woman I would have to say that I agree with them. I find it interesting that Turkey is such a conservative country (In all towns I have been wearing long sleeves, long pants and always have a scarf just in case I need to cover my head) but all the billboards and TV adverts and music video’s I see include scantily clad, gorgeously beautiful women. I’m pretty sure I saw a mobile (cell) phone advert that had a woman in a bikini. So yes, one of their campaigns is trying to combat the sexualisation of women in media.

I would actually be interested in seeing a translation of a Turkish school textbook after this briefing as they mentioned that there were “negative connotations” (these weren’t elaborated on) in Turkish school textbooks of minorities and other groups of people. I can assume that the Armenians and Kurds may be mentioned in a negative light, but I’m not sure who else it would mention in a negative light. I think it would be similar to US history texts mentioning the Native Americans as “Primitives” or “savages” though. They mentioned that they successfully campaigned to have these negative connotations removed from textbooks. I would be especially interested in having English translations as I did a thesis at Montana State University on censorship of textbooks in public schools. One of the guys on this trip who is Chinese discussed with me that he was glad to see that it wasn’t just China who altered “history” in textbooks. It truly is a fascinating topic.

Another thing that really interested me about this group can relate directly to Prime Minister of Germany Angela Merkel’s direct quote “multi-culturalism hasn’t worked.” Talk about a racist comment in light of a country that outlaws anti-semitism language. In context she is talking about a minority population migrating to a country with better opportunities but not assimilating and integrating with the local culture. They are retaining their own culture and staying with their own communities and particularly in “radical Islam” is recruiting young kids into a downward spiral, not of drugs, but of terrorism. Minority youth are feeling increasingly isolated and as a youth I can say that kids will look to anywhere that they can feel as part of a group. I digress. This group is focusing on dialogue for how groups can get together without integrating and assimilating, but can live side by side in their own communities within one country ruled by a minority group. They are looking at how to teach tolerance at a grassroots level in children because they are the future) without forcing them to assimilate and integrate different cultures to have, as Bill Bryson would put it, “Amalgamation, the perfect small town.”

I find this view very interesting. I can see where they are coming from as I think it is very important to remember your own culture and where you are from (for educational and discussion purposes if nothing else) as I am from the US and living in Australia and travelling around the world, but I think staying within your own community and not assimilating to the local culture breeds nothing but resentment and deprives the local culture from a very good learning experience. It’s like bringing Mexicans into the US solely for the Mexican food and then wanting them to leave or the Asians into Australia for the food and then wanting them to leave. It doesn’t make sense. It breeds racism and a superiority complex (I’m not saying it’s just “white’s towards other races” as it definitely works both ways and a mate of mine who is Chinese is somewhat racist towards other parts of China). I’m going to use my roommate again as an example and for this I hope she will forgive me.

She is Australian Turk. She was born and raised in Australia by Turkish parents. Went to a Turk school, goes to my University, is very interested in women’s rights and having a career, but is also very much tied to her Turkish culture. She wants a husband and children but also wants her career in a culture where a woman is a housewife once she has children. I can see from the way she talks that there is a difficulty in reconciling the Australian and Turkish culture, even if she doesn’t realise it yet (she is only 19). The fact that she has thought about it though and managed to be a very outspoken and independent and opinionated woman growing up in a very Turkish household and a Turkish school shows a successful assimilation and integration (in my opinion) of a multi-cultural lifestyle and I am rather impressed and believe that it can work and that it can only lead to good things in a country.

The main thing that I got out of this briefing, though I didn’t agree with everything was that it is extremely important to accept differences. I know that growing up I was different from many of my peers and my family for various things, but my family for the most part accepts me as I am. They may strongly disagree (my parents included) with a lot of my views and beliefs (or lack thereof pending on the subject), but they accept my differences and they believe in me and they know I am a good person. I have had family members and friends of the family who have essentially disowned me for some of my views, but other family members accept me for what I am, views and all. This, to me, proves that multi-culturalism can and does work when people are willing to be tolerant of those with different views and though I may not agree with everything the Intercultural Dialogue Platform ascribes to, I do think they have a very good message to send to the world.