In the Words of Ayşegül Küçükafacan: “Thanks to the small grant by UN Women, I am stronger in combatting violence and abuse”
Ayşegül Küçükafacan is the founder of the Sil Baştan (Start from Scratch) Association for Combatting Violence Against Women and Child Abuse in Balikesir, a city in northwestern Turkey. Due to financial difficulties, she was about to close the association, however a small grant provided by UN Women under the Strong Civic Space for Gender Equality project funded by the European Union, changed the course of things for Küçükafacan. Now, her association continues to combat violence and abuse against women and girls and support those who are subjected to violence. Their emergency hotline to report violence and abuse is now working 24/7.
I have been working as a teacher in different cities of Turkey for the past 25 years. I have met many women and children who were subjected to violence, abuse, as well as child and forced marriages. The things I‘ve witnessed and the stories I’ve been told raised my awareness. I realized that it was absolutely necessary to make the referral mechanisms work and support the empowerment of women and girls.
I attended a court hearing on child abuse at the request of the Federation of Women's Associations of Turkey and observed how organized struggle puts pressure on the system. As a mother of two girls, I wanted to be part of this struggle. I couldn’t find an organization working on violence against women and child abuse in Balıkesir, where I have been working as a teacher. So, I decided to establish an association myself.
Together with my friends, we established the Sil Baştan (Start from Scratch) Association for Combatting Violence Against Women and Child Abuse in 2018. We set up an office with the furniture that we brought from our homes. We tried to make it work through donations, projects and activities.
One day I realized that there was very limited budget left in our accounts – it was only enough for two months. I consulted with our accountant about what we should do. ‘We need to close, there is nothing to do,’ he said. This worried me a lot. I couldn't close my association just because we didn’t have enough money. For the past three years I had worked so hard to keep this organization alive.
One day, just by chance, I came across a call by UN Women to apply for small grants [awarded to eligible civil society organizations] and I applied for it. I cannot forget the day I received the acceptance e-mail. I had one of those rare moments when I couldn’t understand what I was reading. I became very emotional.
Our association continues its activities thanks to the small grant support that we received from UN Women in December 2021. Our emergency hotline to report violence and abuse started working 24/7. We covered our expenses and recruited new staff. We started to allocate more budget to visibility activities so that now we reach more people. We are able to receive psychological and legal support for survivors of violence . Our office is better equipped digitally. Before we used to carry out all our activities using our personal means, but now we have a more corporate structure. With this small grant support, our association embarked on stronger advocacy, more effectively and efficiently.
Since our establishment, we have provided counselling by phone and met counselees face-to-face. We have supported a total of 395 women and children survivors of violence and abuse so far. We made people aware of the many cases of violence and abuse. There are many cases that went in our counselees’ favour or cases where perpetrators were sentenced. One of our counselees, who was being tried on the grounds of murdering her perpetrator, was acquitted with the justification of ‘self-defence’. These are very important developments and demonstrate why our association is important.
My fight against violence, abuse, and early marriages ramped up with the small grant support. I will continue to stand by those who are subjected to violence and demand justice.”