Programme & action: Youth in Action programme, action 4.3. training course
Venue: Urfa, Turkey
Dates: 6-10 May 2014
Participant: Merima Isić
I’ve been recently to the project “GAP’s New Face: Woman” organised in Şanlıurfa, Turkey. Since it was my first project of this kind and I went there alone, on last minute call – I was very anxious about how it’s all going to turn out. Needless to say, my fear was not justified. Being part of a project in a new country with all the people you have never met before is an amazing adventure!
Great thing when you are the only participant from your country is that you get to meet all other participants much faster and easier. Even though we all socialized and had great fun, I’ve noticed that those who were coming in groups tended to stick with each other more than with others. The number of attendants was fairly low, only 13 of us (from Croatia, Italy, Spain, Romania, Germany, Greece, Czech R. and of course, Turkish participants). Nevertheless, this meant that all of us could shine on the project discussions and more than that – we really got to know each other quite close in those 5 days.
First day and night passed by in getting to know each other and there was bunch of games played. Unfortunately, I missed out on that! My plane arrived just in the morning of next day. In the days after we discussed about woman employment and the ways of supporting it in the native countries of participants and we familiarize ourselves with the tough situation of Şanlıurfan woman. Living in a conservative surrounding isn’t easy thing. Many women are comfortable with the situation as it is, and a small number of those who wish for it to be different are facing various difficulties on the way to fulfil their dreams.
What we’ve concluded during this project is that women don’t have it easy anywhere. In each country, women fight for better positions in their societies. Sometimes though, as it’s a case in Şanlıurfa, women are rather passive and don’t seek to change their status. This is preconditioned by culture, but if we want a stronger, more balanced world tomorrow, we have to start changing it today, mainly by educating and supporting women in their entrepreneurial and ideological ideas. Women are strong, have huge unused potential and we have to start exploiting it.
The best part was meeting 3 business women, who are considered highly successful not only among women, but also among men. When the host organisation first presented us the situation in that part of Turkey, the main point was that if women did engage in work other than agriculture, they engaged in some traditional handcrafts and made business out of that. But these 3 women – they took part in something completely different, they started their businesses in services. It was truly inspirational to meet real life women fighters, who not only dared, but succeeded in their fights. And not only in this conservative area is that a big deal!
The peak of the project was “UN job hiring process simulation”, where the jobseekers were applying for a position of defender of woman rights in Somalia. We had a number of different roles and whole simulation seemed to be real, while at the same time very funny. Namely, we had an applicant who “knew” Somali language, but one participant in the hiring commission actually was partly Somali by origin, so they held interview in “Somali”. She got hired in the end, but the moral of the story is – don’t ever lie in your resumesJ.
One of the main difficulties we encountered there was the language. Most of the participants had quite good level of English, but locals were somewhat bad at it. It got better by the end of the week though, and everyone felt pride that it was because of us that they practiced their English and improved it in such a short time. We also never missed the chance to use three most used words in Turkish that they had thought us: Mashallah, Insallah and Eyvallah.
Many of you have probably been to different countries in Europe and experienced different kinds of fun there. But there is nothing you can compare to the fun you’re going to have in Turkey. Being city on the far east of the country, Şanlıurfa belongs more to the Middle East than to the Europe. The first thing that strikes you when you land here is entirely different architecture. Whole city is in the colour of sand. Almost no building has the roof, they prefer terraces. Sometimes, when it’s too hot, they sleep there in the night. Some of us have tried that too, but were woken up at 6 o’clock in the morning by rainJ.
Another thing that fascinated me is their cheerfulness and the habit of dancing – just about everywhere. We were always dancing – traditional Turkish/Kurdish dances – even in the bus. And every dinner in the hotel started with banging the drums, which proceeded to be huge party for locals and any tourists who enjoy local music and customs. They would gather on the terrace of the hotel, which was draped with carpets and with cushions arranged around, so the middle was empty for the dance. Everyone gathered to listen and dance to the same traditional music – young and old. You don’t see that often.
Besides this, we got familiarized with other aspects of Turkish culture too. Every meal we had was traditional Turkish, with Ayran served almost always and with limitless quantities of Turkish chai available at all times. We, participants, also got the opportunity to represent some of our traditional food on the “international night” and needless to say – they loved all of it. When we were not too tired to go out, or had no other plans, we spend the nights on a “stairway cafe” (stairs led to the old city on the top of one hill), smoking “shisha” and enjoying the view from height. Important thing to mention is the legend of the city: allegedly, the city is birthplace for several prophets mentioned in Quran and Bible. Most important, Sanliurfa is the place of birth and death of Ibrahim/Abraham. There have been built very beautiful mosques on those places (of birth and death) and they’re considered to be places of pilgrimage for those who believe. The city truly has some special magical energy. Last, but not least, magical are also their Bazaars and the moment when you realize what the power of negotiating is when you buy something for the third of initial priceJ.
I hope some of you will also get to know this beautiful city that is Şanlıurfa and this magnificent culture of theirs.
Till next time, Insallah,