October 10: Selen, Ankara

Selen is a journalist and has chosen to use her skills at Flying Broom, a media oriented NGO that works for women’s rights.

Flying Broom will celebrate its 15th anniversary in May, 2012.  This is an unusually long life for a women’s organization in Turkey where four and a half years is the average life span for such an organization.

Selen described four of the key programs of Flying Broom.  The most widely recognized is a Film Festival they sponsor each year.  They choose a theme – this year it was “power” – power in the family, in schools, in workplaces, and in the social and political arenas. Commercial quality films are selected that deal with the theme and that are directed by women. They give awards, sponsor events around the film viewings, use public service announcements, TV and radio interviews – – and use every opportunity to raise awareness about women’ issues, problems and possibilities for change.

Their focus in their programs and their print publications include violence against women, women’s political participation, stories about women, and information of interest to women.

Their print publications – a newsletter, a Journal, booklets, brochures, posters – form a second key program.  They produce accurate, pointed, and extremely high quality materials.  There is an English page on their web site that you can check out.  And, I’ve invited Selen to submit news articles for our womenleadingtheway.com site.

One of the really significant things they have done is to invite women from all over Turkey who have some skills and lots of interest – to become “reporters” for them.  Flying Broom provides them some training.  This, of course, greatly broadens the scope of women’s perspectives, engages whole additional groups of women, and, in general creates a larger network of women connected to one another.

“We use many tools in our work,” Selen assures us, as she goes on to describe a way they have been working on third key program – eliminating the child bride practice.  “We made a trip through 54 cities in Turkey,” she says.  “It was exciting to wake up every morning in a different city.  In each place we sponsored public conversation on the Child Bride issue.”  This practice is illegal in Turkey, and yet is a deeply embedded tradition.  Local officials usually assured us that the problem did not exist in their city, but we said, “Well, we need to talk to the women.”  And we asked those who gathered – What are the reasons this practice still exists?  What are the results?   Many were not clear that arranging for child bride was against the law.  And we explained that it was, what could happen to their families, and what they can do.

Yes it is hard, Selen told us – to hear the story of a 10 year old girl wed to a 70 year old man – for money – – – – and then to get up the next morning with a sense of hope and enthusiasm to meet with a new group of people.  And there are not small groups  – 700 to 800 people may gather.  “We help them understand that ‘NO’ this is not destiny.  There are things you can do.”

“Selen exercises enormous leadership,” Leyla (who introduced us) tells us – ‘in media relations, gender issues, significant knowledge and influence regarding the Child Bride issue, teaching and training on organizational dynamics issues at the University.”

You can check their web site around October 27 to learn about a meeting they have organized at Parliament.  I believe it will feature some writing by Selen and also the Minister of the new government agency, Family and Social Programs will speak.  This agency replaces the recently dissolved Ministry for Women’s Affairs.

These amazing women we are meeting are a great inspiration!

And – I’ve just learned that it is raining today so time to think

about how best to savor this particular day ! ! ! !

Warm regards,

Barbara

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