Flying Broom Women’s Communication and Research Association (Uçan Süpürge Kadın İletişim ve Araştırma Derneği) is receiving grant support from our Children’s Fund to implement the Girls Can STEM project to contribute to the elimination of gender inequality in science and technology, support girls’ orientation towards positive sciences, and encourage girls to work and produce in science and technology.
Read below our interview:
Can you tell us about the story of how the Flying Broom Women’s Communication and Research Association was founded and about the activities of the association?
Flying Broom Association was established in late 2008 to achieve gender equality in all areas, protect, and enhance the human rights of women and girls. Our work focuses on the values of feminist consciousness, non-violence, gender democracy, women’s human rights, and sustainability values. Since our establishment, we have focused on projects that empower girls, and prioritised the development of civil dialogue. Our expertise is concentrated in three main areas: preventing child marriages, directing girls towards science and technology in education and career choices, and developing critical media literacy with a gender focus.
As of 2021, we have also included working with and for disabled women in our roadmap. We strive to transform our experiences in rights-based advocacy and communication into new collaborations by actively participating in networks and platforms. We are active members of the Partnership Network for Preventing Violence against Children, Disability Children’s Rights Network, and Equality Monitoring Centre. Additionally, we are the first member of Girls Not Brides in Turkey, a global network with 1,600 organisations in 100 countries dedicated to preventing child marriages.
Girls Can STEM project aims to provide information about STEM careers to girls, connect participants with role models, and challenge gender-based stereotypes in career choices through training and workshop activities.
We have implemented the Child Marriage Prevention Program, which includes various projects supported by institutions such as the Sabancı Foundation, Global Fund for Women, and UN Women, to prevent child marriages and ensure girls’ equal education. We have implemented projects involving STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities in schools. These projects were implemented in all 81 provinces and were supported by the Ministry of National Education, the European Union, Ford Otosan, etc.
To improve the representation of women in the media, we have implemented numerous projects, produced news from a gender perspective, and conducted rights-based media monitoring. We have established a studio in partnership with Radio Jin from Diyarbakir to produce podcasts for women and held training sessions. Currently, in addition to the project implemented with your grant support, we are launching a new project on combating child marriages with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Civil Society Development Centre (Sivil Toplum Geliştirme Merkezi).
You are implementing the Girls Can STEM Project with our grant support. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of this project?
Girls Can STEM project aims to provide information about STEM careers to girls, connect participants with role models, and challenge gender-based stereotypes in career choices through training and workshop activities. The project targets girls aged 14-17. We will update the implementation plan of our project due to two of the selected cities being affected by the February 6 earthquakes.
While developing our project, we aimed to address discrimination and human rights violations, including migrant, refugee, and disabled girls, and create opportunities for empowerment for girls from all marginalised groups. The gendered nature of professions and the exclusion of women influence the educational and career choices of girls, preventing them from realising their full potential. We aim to raise awareness about this issue and direct girls towards careers based on their dreams and abilities, rather than conforming to gender stereotypes. We aim to reach 500 girls and adults with this project.
Girls face multiple forms of discrimination due to gender, ethnic background, citizenship status, beliefs, language, sexual orientation, physical appearance, clothing, etc.
Based on your experiences working with different age groups, what are the biggest challenges faced by girls, especially those from low-income communities, who aspire to pursue education or careers in STEM?
Girls face multiple forms of discrimination due to gender, ethnic background, citizenship status, beliefs, language, sexual orientation, physical appearance, clothing, etc. The conditions created by their economic status further exacerbate this discrimination. The priorities of low-income families regarding their daughters’ education revolve around fields that have relatively easy job prospects immediately after graduation and allow for caregiving responsibilities within the household. The limited employment opportunities for women in various sectors also reinforce this situation.
Cultural norms perpetuating the idea that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are more suitable for boys, combined with economic constraints, create additional barriers for girls in pursuing education and careers in STEM. Awareness of gender stereotypes, access to opportunities, implementation of public policies, and awareness-raising efforts in the field of STEM can help overcome these challenges.
February 6 earthquakes have further disadvantaged vulnerable groups. Can you tell us about the priorities that need to be addressed for girls affected by the earthquakes?
Women and girls are among the most vulnerable groups in disaster situations. When disasters occur, women and men are affected in different ways. Since women’s lives are generally confined to the household, they are more likely to be caught inside their homes during earthquakes, reducing their chances of survival. During earthquakes, women often focus on protecting their children rather than themselves. Additionally, a significant portion of women who lose their lives in earthquakes are those who enter damaged buildings to fetch necessities such as clothing and food. Gender roles increase women’s vulnerability and exposure to risks during disaster situations.
When disasters occur, women and men are affected in different ways.
In addition to the unique needs of women and girls, security is also an issue. It is necessary to create shelter areas that ensure women’s safety, protect them from sexual abuse and violence, and meet their hygiene needs. We witnessed once again with the Kahramanmaras earthquakes that gender inequality intensifies in disaster situations. It is crucial for disaster management to include the needs and priorities of women. We also want to draw attention to the responsibility of the media, images of survivors, children in particular, should not be randomly used in the media, especially to prevent possible attempts by human traffickers.
According to a report published by the United Nations in 2021, the number of child brides is expected to reach 10 million within the next ten years. Is there a national strategy or policy developed to combat child marriages?
As a women’s organisation contemplating the relationship between child marriages and the climate crisis, we can anticipate that child marriages may also be “displaced” along with people seeking relatively safe areas after the destruction caused by natural disasters. However, this does not mean that child marriages do not occur in the western parts of the country or that this issue stems only from eastern provinces. Child marriages existed before the earthquakes and before the arrival of Syrian refugees, and they still exist. The dynamics might change, but the issue persists. As individuals from the earthquake-affected regions settle in other provinces, they will face various socio-economic and cultural challenges. Poverty, alienation, and the difficulties of the integration process can accelerate child marriages.
In our country, there is no comprehensive and sustainable child policy based on human rights. Gender equality is not an integral part of social policies. Therefore, there is no mechanism to protect girls from neglect, abuse, sexual assault, child trafficking, and child marriages. Despite child marriages being illegal, they are still widely accepted in society. When existing laws are inadequate, international human rights conventions should be the basis, as it is a constitutional obligation. Although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is in force in our country, children are not protected because the convention is not implemented adequately.
It is extremely challenging to protect individuals’ rights and prevent violations when impunity is so prevalent. To prevent child marriages, it is necessary to enforce the law effectively and transform norms. Safe spaces for girls should be created, school dropouts should be prevented, and awareness should be raised about the fact that marriage is for adults and that child marriages constitute a crime.
About the Flying Broom Women’s Communication and Research Association
Established in Ankara, the association conducts research and studies at the national and international levels on issues such as the right to education, early and forced marriages, and rights-based media literacy in order to make visible the negative effects of gender inequality on the lives of women and girls.