Happy Women’s History Month! This month, we’d like to dedicate our newsletter to all wonder women out there who deserve the spotlight more than anyone. Wonder women look ordinary from the outside. You can’t find them in the newspapers or on Google, but you probably pass by them everyday on the streets of Turkey. If you take a closer look at them, that’s when you’ll notice what makes them extraordinary. Women in Turkey are forced to remain under the shadows because of the local communal pressure on them to conform to conservative norms which suggest that a woman’s place is her home. Despite this “neighborhood pressure” and lack of support from their families, these wonder women find their way towards education and participate in the workforce. They break the barriers of a patriarchal society through their determination to be equal. This month is about them, their persistence and amazing potential.
One of our partners, KAMER Foundation, empowers and honors these wonder women, no matter what their background, education and economic status is. KAMER Foundation believes as much as we do that every woman is extraordinary, and that all they need is an opportunity to demonstrate it. Founded in 1997, KAMER Foundation focuses on creating projects to empower women in disadvantaged communities, mainly in the southeastern regions of Turkey. They connect with local women, educate them about their own rights and encourage them to go to school and find a job. They expose women to their potential and guide them on how to turn their talents into a sustainable income. KAMER Foundation has established many workspaces such as restaurants, shops and hostels in the southeastern areas of Turkey. Through these workspaces, they provide local women a chance to participate in the workforce. Women cook in these restaurants, create handmade products and work in hostels to earn an income and support their families. KAMER is not alone in providing women with opportunities. They collaborate with many inspiring professionals to empower underprivileged women in Turkey.
One of KAMER’s fascinating women empowerment project is a collaboration with famous fashion designer Arzu Kaprol. Arzu used only one type of fabric for her latest collection, Kutnu fabric, for one reason: to provide local women with jobs. Kutnu fabric is unique to Antep and only Antep women truly mastered the special technique of weaving it. With this project, hundreds of women who were not allowed to go to market without their husbands escorting them are now working everyday and earning an income to support their families. This project is more than adding income to the household. It’s about gaining self-confidence and realizing that anything is possible no matter where you come from.
An entrepreneur from New York, Gamze Ates also started a program to facilitate a way for women of KAMER to provide income for themselves. Gamze’s initiative, My Beachy Side, sells beach accessories and craftwork handmade in the eastern parts of Turkey. The project gives many women a chance for economic independence and communicates the importance it for empowerment.
Despite these progressive projects to empower women, the female population in the workforce in Turkey is still below 30%. There are many women with unique talents but not enough opportunities to fulfill their potential. Gender inequalities are deeply rooted in attitudes, institutions and market forces in our society. TPF understands that we need to give girls and women opportunities and enhance their voice so they can make choices about their lives. Join our platform for women and girls so that we can chance cultural norms and institutions and continue to support organizations such as KAMER.