Meryem was only 14 years old when she got married to a man she barely knew. In a year, she had her first baby who was born physically and mentally disabled. Her second child was born a year after that. Throughout her marriage, her husband physically abused her and their children. It took her five years to get a divorce and start a new life on her own.
Zehra was 15 while her husband was 53 when their families arranged their marriage. She didn’t know that she had a right to say no to her family or to her husband who continuously harassed her for 29 years. She didn’t think of leaving him because in her town, getting a divorce is frowned upon. She accepted the decisions made for her by others until her husband died.
Özlem was only 16 when her own family killed her. It all started when she was 15, the day she was forced to marry a man whom she wasn’t in love with. She ran away to another town, to a women’s shelter. But her family tracked her down and did what they think was necessary in the name of their family’s ‘honor’. Due to insufficient evidence, no one was charged guilty in Özlem’s case.
Nurcan, a young woman in her 30s, was threatened and beaten up by two men who broke into her house in Muş, Turkey. Because she was the one who encouraged Meryem to get a divorce. Because she gives a voice to women who are not able to speak up. Because she is fighting to end violence against women so that they won’t have the fate of Ozlem and Zehra. Because she is teaching women their rights all over Turkey. Because she founded a nonprofit organization, Muş Women’s Roof Association (MWRA), our newest partner, 11 years ago with a mission to change the lives of many young women living in Turkey.
Since establishing MWRA, Nurcan and her team are traveling all over Turkey and visiting families living in small towns who don’t want their daughters to get an education. After 50 house visits, they managed to convince 39 families. Thanks to them, 39 young women are able to go to school and excel in life. In addition to house visits, MWRA also organizes educational seminars to raise awareness on health issues of child marriage, women rights and violence against women. So far, they reached out to over 7,000 girls, 4,000 families and 1500 public officials. Their efforts definitely contributed to the decrease in child marriage rates in the last 5 years from 85 percent to 65 percent in Muş.
Their newest project is as inspiring as their previous ones. With a mission to educate men about women rights, they are organizing a 10-week workshop only for public officials and NGO employees. The program will have a ripple effect since the participants are working in crucial areas to end violence against women, MWRA aims to reach out to more than 300 men by educating only 10 people. Take a look at MWRA to support gender equality. Your contribution can make a change in lives of many young women.
For safety reasons, the real name of the women in this narrative have been changed.