Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
“At 6.00 in the morning she begins her morning cleaning. After preparing breakfast and clearing the table, she cleans up all the rooms.” This is a brief translation of a short passage secondary school students are given in Turkey. The passage supposedly depicts the role of a married Turkish woman in a household. Nowhere in the passage is a man mentioned doing any housework. The passage is completely based on the fact that women are the one’s who should clean, cook and nurture the children.
I remember the first time I read it. I didn’t even question what I had learned that day in school. It was just another mundane school day. Little did I know by not speaking up that day in class, by not questioning the passage and by not asking whether being a woman was more than just cooking and cleaning, I was contributing to a problem that was much bigger than I ever realized.
I was brought up in a culture where once a girl gets married the family “gives” her away, as if girls are a prized possession, where it is completely normal to see more than 5 reports a day in the newspapers about girls who were raped, murdered or beaten, and where in some places it is completely normal to get married at ages as young as 13. How can one accept us to stand up for ourselves when we are taught only in secondary school that our only role is to serve men?
One day I came home to meet my mother talking on the phone with tears running down her face. I later on found out that my mother’s friend’s cleaning lady, had been beaten to death by her husband. I didn’t shed a tear. Not because I have no emotions, or not because I am a cruel person, but because it was not the first I had heard this story. I had been growing up constantly listening to similar versions of this tale. Strangely enough, my emotionless reaction to this event had greater effect on me, than any other event that I had bowled my eyes out for. I realized it was not natural for me to view these situations as “ordinary” events. The main problem wasn’t the uneducated men who didn’t know any better, the problem was the educated and strong girls like me who weren’t using their voices to stand up.
In school, I heard about a project the previous year’s seniors had left incomplete. A teacher was looking for students to complete the project. As soon as I heard the name of the project I jumped at the opportunity; the project was called ‘Violence Against Women’ (VAW).
The project began with only three students and a two hundred slides of PowerPoint. We started by only translating the English slide show into Turkish, while editing and deleting additional information. A basic PowerPoint slowly started converting into a successful presentation packed with interviews, reel stories, effective content and videos. We practiced for months until we decided we were ready to take the stage.
A problem that once seemed so far away was now right in front of me, and I had the power to tell everyone what I had learned, to create awareness and make everyone understand that violence is never “normal”. We began as a small group, but in one short year we managed to turn our small project into an official school club. We went to over twenty schools in one year, ranging from public schools to private. We managed to get our project verified by the government, which gives us permission to go to schools all over Turkey.
Even though it is solely a few words on a presentation, I can feel the effect we create in each classroom that we enter. When we tell the stories of the victims suddenly all heads turn to us. All the quiet whispers amongst the students suddenly stop and everyone listens in silence. At the end of our show, we ask the audience if they would like to contribute to our project. We give the school a CD of our presentation and ask them to create a group in their own school. We ask this group to continue our presentation in other schools. Are goal is to spread our project across the country and create as much awareness as possible.
Still each time I take the stage to tell the stories of the victims of abuse I begin to shake. No matter how many times I state the same story, it still hurts when I talk about the victims. Violence or the undermining of women is not “normal” and it will never feel “normal” to me again. Creating and leading this project has affected me in many ways. Not only has it taught me discipline and work ethics, but has also taught me should never stop. When we first started the project our goal was only to turn the project into an official school club. After we achieved that goal we started struggling for government verification. We also achieved that goal. We never stop creating more targets for ourselves.
This project has become a part of me. I don’t want to stop giving it my all, until I actually feel that I am making a difference in my country.
Source: ‘’Sabah saat 06.00’da sabah temizliği ile başlıyor. Kahvaltının hazırlanması ve sofranın toplanmasından sonra oda temizleniyor. İşe giden kadın, akşam yine sofra hazırlıyor, bulaşıkları yıkıyor, ertesi günün akşam yemeğini yapıyor, odaları topluyor ve 21.30’da dinlenme saati başlıyor.’’ (Fatma Çiçekçi, ilköğretim 6, 7 ve 8. sınıflar için)