Raising awareness of violence against women by staged photos, translating thousands of national exam questions to Braille for visually impaired elementary school students, promoting visual arts by writing and staging plays for high school students… These are just a few of the projects initiated by ‘The Sparks.’ The Sparks are female college students from low-income families and small towns of Turkey. They meet under the roof of Change Leaders Association (DLD) with a mission to empower women. These are young women selected among many who want to use their talents to make positive change in their lives and the world we share. As Sparks, they identify social problems in their communities and create projects to address and provide solutions. During the process as project leaders, they learn to be leaders, explore the importance of women in leaderships and explore their own potential.
DLD was established by Sema Basol to create a little spark in communities in Turkey so young women can seek ways to maximize their potentials and believe that they can accomplish anything. Inspired by all the women she met that are making a difference in the world, Sema Basol wanted to empower young women to be more active, responsible and productive members of their societies and take leadership positions. She works relentlessly with notable volunteers to change the perspective of young women on gender roles and were very recently recognized for her work by 21 Leaders for the 21st Century in New York.
The Sparks program of DLD trains and coaches eight female college students every year for eight months. The program is based on the “learning by doing” model so young women take initiatives, work as a team and become active in their communities. Each Sparks project focuses on a different social issue. Few years ago, The Sparks from Izmir initiated a fascinating project to raise awareness on violence against women. The Sparks wrote and staged scenarios of violence against women while they took photographs of these mise-en-scenes. Their photos were displayed at an exhibition in Izmir City Hall for a couple of months. Another group of Sparks from Duzce, created a special project to assist visually impaired elementary school students. They translated 2,000 high school exam questions to Braille. With this project, visually impaired children had the chance to participate in this national high school exam for the first time. In small towns of Turkey, the number of libraries, movie theaters are really small. To fulfill this lack of visual art spaces, another group of Sparks from Duzce took the matter in their hands. They wrote five different screenplays, visited high schools in their towns and acted their plays on stage.
By creating social awareness projects and managing them, the Sparks discover their potential and learn to be leaders. There are currently 200 Sparks all over Turkey raising awareness and addressing social problems. There could be more. Take a look at DLD’s page to help ignite a flame to initiate the change our communities need.