“Both of my parents died when I was young. I was raised by my grandmother and uncle. My uncle wanted to marry me off in exchange for a dowry when I was 16. He needed the money to care for the family. I spoke to my teacher about it and my teacher got me in touch with Hisar Anadolu Destek Dernegi (HADD). Servet Harunoglu, [one of the founders and current Chairman of HADD], and my teacher convinced my uncle so I can join HADD. The fact that I would bring in income to the household was what persuaded him. I have been coming to HADD Social Center for three years now and am the sole breadwinner in the family,” recites Ayse when asked about her story.
Economic hardship is one of the drivers of early marriages in Eastern Turkey. Some families marry away their daughters just to reduce the expenses of the household. Since young women have very few options to make a living many families see this solution as the only viable one. HADD for the last eight years has been working to give opportunities to these young women so they can have a different future.
HADD believes that skill enhancing workshops are powerful weapons against poverty and are the best investments towards women’s empowerment. One of the teachers at the Center, Reyhan, when explaining the organization’s ultimate goal of improving the employability of and income-earning opportunities for women notes, “we’d like to get these young women out of the house and give them the skills they need to become independent members of the society.” The workshops at the Center concentrate on kilim weaving, scarf designing, and beekeeping.
“Most of the girls we help have dropped out or had never been schooled,” says Servet Harunoglu. He noted that currently there are 130 women benefiting from the Center. Besides vocational training, these young women take literacy and computer classes. Some young women even took exams to graduate from high school after dropping out with the support of HADD and got into college.
“We are very proud of our accomplishments. Yet, HADD will be a success story when there are no young women that need HADD’s workshops. Until then, we will continue providing for these young women,” says Servet Harunoglu