Katre Women’s Counselling and Solidarity Association (Katre Kadın Danışma ve Dayanışma Derneği) received a grant from our Gender Equality Fund in 2021, to increase women’s awareness on sexual and reproductive health issues and rights.
Read below our interview with Katre Women’s Association:
This is the first grant the Katre Women’s Association is receiving from our foundation. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of your organisation?
We started working as a women’s platform in Erzincan. Then, we realised the need for furthering our activities and established Katre Women’s Association in January 2019. We’ve come a long way with the contributions of various donor organisations for our capacity building and financial needs. We organised workshops for our volunteers about methods of receiving women’s applications and providing psychological support. Targeting women in Erzincan’s underprivileged neighbourhoods and villages, we organised awareness-raising activities. As a result, many women joined our association and our activities.
We implemented several outreach activities where women shared their stories regarding the problems they faced, the way they defined violence, the discrimination and oppression they experienced. We always speak up and take responsibility against oppression, violence, and discrimination in all matters, particularly against women, children, and the LGBTI+. Katre Women’s Association can now mobilise street protests and speak out on various concerns in Erzincan.
We always speak up and take responsibility against oppression, violence, and discrimination in all matters, particularly against women, children, and the LGBTI+.
You are working to protect the rights of women, children, and LGBTI+s and create awareness on these matters. Considering the demographic and sociopolitical structure of Erzincan, what are the major challenges faced by these groups?
Working with women, children, and LGBTI+s in a city like Erzincan, where different ethnic groups are severely fragmented, creates worries regarding our capacity to reach and establish a correct relationship with these groups. Nevertheless, once we were in the field, they got to know us, an atmosphere of mutual trust emerged, and they began to communicate and open up. Then, we discovered that the biggest issue was being secluded, silenced due to social pressures, and not being able to deal with prejudices imposed by society.
When women, children, and LGBTI+s are subjected to violence, and other forms of oppression, they are stigmatised and rejected by people, institutions, and society. We witness several instances like the difficulties experienced by our LGBTI+ volunteers in finding housing in the city and being subjected to psychological pressure from landowners. We witness the difficulties experienced by divorced women to find a job and reorganise their lives. To prevent these, all institutions providing social services should perform their duties more effectively and efficiently. State policies involving hate speech and violent attitudes shape society’s perception; therefore measures should be taken in this regard.
We discovered that the biggest issue was being secluded, silenced due to social pressures, and not being able to deal with prejudices imposed by society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to several changes in the areas and the ways civil society organisations work. How did the pandemic affect your work?
Undoubtedly our work has undergone several changes. We started to hold online meetings, and also completed all our trainings online. We couldn’t conduct our fieldwork, but despite the bans on meetings and demonstrations, we continued to be outside on the street for press statements. Given that dozens of women are killed every day, we persisted in speaking out and making ourselves heard. Since we closed the office due to the pandemic, we worked remotely from home and continued to receive women’s applications and provide support via telephone.
What kind of collaborations and partnerships do you build with public institutions and CSOs at the local level? How do these collaborations contribute to your work?
We constantly attempt to contact the governorship and municipality to accelerate women’s applications to social services. Because sometimes an authorized person may be required to speed up the application processes of women and children who have an immediate need for protection. When there is a need for legal and psychological support and legal aid, our volunteer lawyers inform us and we can provide support without difficulty.
Since many public institutions, such as the Bar Association, the governor’s office, social services, etc. are familiar with our association and our work, we can easily contact them. But there are also times when we cannot get an appointment for a long time for instance because they know who we are, or times when our activities such as protests are banned. It is a significant achievement for us that public institutions and local governments feel the pressure created by civil society and become more attentive and sensitive in their work.
The number of active local CSOs are rather limited; we call upon their support when there is a need. As a result of these communications, we now have a voice in the local community, which enables us to reach more women through referrals.
It is a significant achievement for us that public institutions and local governments feel the pressure created by civil society and become more attentive and sensitive in their work.
With our grant support under the 2021 term of the Gender Equality Fund, you will carry out the Women and the Right to Health project. How did you come up with this project? What kind of work do you intend to do as part of the project?
We thought about the issues we all refrained from discussing with women in outreach activities, workshops, awareness-raising groups, etc. Also, when we looked at the average age of the applicants and the fact that they had children at a very early age, we started to realise the sad picture we were faced with. Women’s awareness of these issues needed to be elevated, so we wrote a project to do just that. We concentrated on how much we know about women’s health, reproduction, and sexuality. With this project, we will work on sexually transmitted diseases, child marriages, domestic violence, harassment, and rape. We will also reach out to women in the neighbourhoods about the sexual health issues that women in Erzincan face, how many women are aware and benefit from sexual health and abortion services, and about our familiarity with our bodies.
About Katre Women’s Association
Established in Erzincan, the association works to ensure an equal life and opportunities for women, children and LGBTI+s, especially in terms of housing, health, law, sexual and social rights.