Yüksekova Women’s Social Support and Culture Association (Yüksekova Kadınlarını Toplumsal Destekleme ve Kültür Derneği-YUKADER) received a grant from our Gender Equality Fund in 2021, to implement the Women of Yüksekova Stand Against Violence project. YUKADER will establish an Emergency Support Helpline, raise awareness about violence against women, and conduct outreach activities with women in Yuksekova.
Read below our interview with YUKADER:
Can you tell us about the aim and activities of YUKADER?
YUKADER was founded in May 2018 in Hakkari, Yuksekova, by a group of 7 university graduates. We are the first women’s organisation established in Yuksekova, so we quickly drew a lot of attention. We aim to enable women to participate in the decision-making mechanisms of local governments and public institutions. Another reason why we established YUKADER was to repair the heavy destruction suffered because of the curfews. Women did not have an active social life outside the home, but during the curfews, they were fully isolated. The fact that women and children were deprived of their rights and that many families had to struggle with unemployment and poverty created many problems.
89% of our 607 interviewees were subjected to violence. Yet, only 1 out of every 4 women had attempted to get away from violence.
In your 2020 report titled Being a Woman in Yuksekova, you revealed that 89% of the women you interviewed have experienced violence. Can you tell us about the scope and key findings of this report?
We anticipated this even before the household visits because we were well aware that violence existed here, as it did everywhere else. Yet, we also knew that national statistics were not reflecting the reality of Yuksekova. The absence of statistical information impeded our work, because we didn’t have any data supporting our observations. There were no similar studies of other institutions or CSOs. We collected data through household visits, which allowed us to state our demands clearly.
One of the most striking findings of the research was that 89% of our 607 interviewees were subjected to violence. Yet, only 1 out of every 4 women had attempted to get away from violence. Fear is one of the main reasons why women did not act against violence. Furthermore, women were not aware of their rights and the existing support mechanisms. For this reason, we included in the project key public institutions to emphasize the importance of cooperation.
We organised literacy courses in our Coloured Hands Art Workshop, allowing 50 women to graduate from primary school.
According to the report, while only 16% of the women had an income-generating activity outside the household, 84% had no income. 52% of the unemployed women stated that they couldn’t find a job. As a result, we founded the Demeter Agricultural Development Women’s Cooperative in 2019 to support women in acquiring economic freedom.
39% of the women we interviewed were illiterate, while 10% knew how to read and write but never went to school. So, we organised literacy courses in our Coloured Hands Art Workshop, allowing 50 women to graduate from primary school. These data showed us that the existence of an independent women’s organisation in Yuksekova was extremely beneficial to women.
Can you elaborate on the formation process of the Demeter Agricultural Development Women’s Cooperative and its activities?
The Cooperative was founded by 13 women and with the volunteers, this number has risen to 20. We aim to ensure that women living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and villages have access to decent work opportunities and can get out of the cycle of poverty. The cooperative also participates in capacity-building initiatives to raise women’s awareness of their economic rights.
“I have been in Yuksekova for 35 years, and no one could make women’s voices heard until now.” (Woman from Yuksekova)
We aim to realise the goal of qualified employment and economic growth in rural areas, which are among the Sustainable Development Goals. We established the cooperative in connection with the Ministry of Agriculture. The cooperative started selling women’s products to empower them financially.
We signed a protocol for the Organic Hidden Cities project with the Governorship of Hakkari and the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture. The project aims for the organic products of women farmers to have a prominent place in Turkey’s agriculture. We received equipment support from the Support to Life Association’s (Hayata Destek Derneği). The Youth Deal Cooperative (Genç İşi Kooperatif) provided a 6-day training to support the project.
The Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (Kadın Emeğini Değerlendirme Vakfı-KEDV) offered an online training on cooperatives. The Habitat Association provided financial literacy training and helped us with the cooperative’s website. 2 women from Iran and Iraq among the beneficiaries of the Demeter Cooperative will be employed to support them financially and to contribute to their integration into society. As YUKADER, we organised gender equality awareness programs for the cooperative members.
Violence against women affects all women, regardless of their income or education levels.
You are implementing the “Women of Yuksekova Stand Against Violence” project with grant support from our Gender Equality Fund. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of the project?
As part of the Being a Woman in Yuksekova project, we discovered that women in Yuksekova between the ages of 18-45 have insufficient knowledge of the different forms of violence, support mechanisms and legal rights. Violence against women affects all women, regardless of their income or education levels. Women in Yuksekova have an inferior status concerning fundamental human rights. Since most women here do not speak Turkish, they cannot access to awareness-raising materials on violence against women.
With this project, we will prepare a bilingual guidebook with detailed information on violence against women, different types of violence, support mechanisms, and women’s legal rights. We will also prepare a bilingual brochure including information on our Emergency Support Helpline. We will produce a promotional video film targeting the public to raise awareness of violence against women.
3 staff members will attend the 1-month capacity building training of the KAMER Foundation. They will receive practical information on how to communicate and work with women who are subjected to violence. Then, we will provide counselling to women. Our Emergency Support Helpline, established with the financial support of the Support Foundation for Civil Society and the Turkey Mozaik Foundation, will make it easier for women to contact us.
We will provide a general overview of violence in the region and its effects on women through the information we will gather from women’s narratives. Our report will produce statistical data and information on violence in Yuksekova, along with policy recommendations.
YUKADER has now established itself as the most effective organisation to reach out to women in Yuksekova.
You collaborate with public institutions and women’s organisations in your activities. Can you describe the scope of these collaborations and how they have contributed to your work?
According to the statistics of the Turkish Statistical Institution, the rate of violence in Hakkari is lower than in other provinces. One reason for this is that public authorities do not record most of the incidents of violence. Also, since Hakkari is a small city, family and kinship relationships deter women from speaking out. The existence of a local women’s organisation both activated public institutions and motivated the women.
We organise monthly women’s coordination meetings with the relevant public institutions to find alternative solutions to women’s problems. If an incident of violence occurs in the region, we assess it as a group. We also use this network to serve as a bridge between these institutions and women who have difficulty reaching them. This collaboration contributes to the sustainability of the projects implemented. YUKADER has now established itself as the most effective organisation to reach out to women in Yuksekova.
Since our establishment, we have also collaborated with CSOs working in various regions across Turkey. These collaborations stood out as “firsts” in Hakkari and offered a new experience for the CSOs, as they had never worked in Hakkari before. Each collaboration empowered us and improved our capacity. That is why we continue to work and monitor in collaboration with public institutions and CSOs. We continue to improve through the power of collaboration.
YUKADER works to ensure the equal and effective participation of women in all levels of social, economic, cultural, and political life. The association implements activities to influence public opinion and raise awareness about gender equality and women’s rights.