In the words of Müge Yamanyılmaz: “Women’s lives can be changed by sharing our knowledge and experience with other women”
Müge Yamanyılmaz is the project manager of “Support to Life,” a humanitarian organization promoting basic human rights and needs in rural communities since 2005. Within the UN Women regional programme on ending violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds,” funded by the European Union, the organization has developed the training course “I am woman, I have rights” aimed at strengthening women’s access to justice and informing them about their rights. Müge Yamanyılmaz spoke to UN Women about why it is crucial to train women on their rights, particularly women from the vulnerable groups, and how the lives of women and girls can be changed if organizations support them along the way.
Within our project ‘Strengthening Women’s Access to Justice, Rights and Services,’ supported by UN Women regional programme ‘Implementing Norms, Changing Minds,’ funded by the European Union, we seek to explain that law and legal mechanisms are not disconnected from women’s lives. The rights we have are essential to our lives. The Law to Protect Family and Prevent Violence against Women and the support mechanisms that are set forth, for example, provide an opportunity to make tangible, positive change in women’s lives. We try to convey the message that laws are the tools that respond to our daily needs and affect our lives.
However, observing that there is a difference between theory and practice regarding women’s access to rights and freedom, we developed a series of training modules to eliminate this difference. 48 women – including refugee women, representatives of public institutions and civil society organizations and “Support to Life” volunteers from eight cities in Turkey – improved their knowledge on women’s human rights, civil and economic rights, rights to protection against violence, rights to health care and sexual and reproductive health rights. As a result of this training, which took place from May to August this year, women are now sharing the knowledge, skills and experiences they obtained with other women in their provinces. So far, we have reached almost 500 women in rural areas around Turkey within four months.
We have no doubt that it is now more possible for those women, equipped with essential necessary information about their rights via the trainings they received, to make their own choices and decisions about their lives.
The training modules not only provide access to information but also enable women to share their personal experiences of being a woman with each other. I strongly believe that the lives of women and girls can be changed by sharing our knowledge and experiences with other women around us.
At the end of one training, I was so happy to see a woman very determined to keep sending her child to school and stand against early and forced marriages. She shared her story with other participants. This moved me a lot. Through this project, we have created a determination and belief that the lives of women and girls can be changed, and gender equality can be achieved.
However, while we support women so they won’t walk alone, neither should organizations be alone in pursuing these goals. Cooperation between the institutions is essential for women’s access to justice.
Informative videos in Turkish and Arabic, a Facilitator’s Guide and presentations that can be used as training materials are available on our organization’s website and YouTube channel so that institutions that work with women can access them.”