WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES OF HREP

As a program in operation for over 20 years that has reached over 15 thousand women in a diverse array of places, HREP (the Human Rights Education Program for Women) owes its continued existence to two main pillars upholding the program: i.e. HREP participants and trainers. The transformation created by women taking part in HREP starting with their own lives and spreading through their communities, ultimately making an impact on the entire society is the program’s greatest strength. On the other hand, the unfailing faith our HREP group facilitators have in the program and in women’s solidarity, as well as in each and every single woman participating is an equally indispensable element of the program. It is for this reason that we wish to offer you an opportunity to hear about HREP from participants and trainers themselves, in their own words.

HREP Experiences from Participants and Trainers

To be honest, when I heard that it would be a human rights education program, I went prepared thinking that it would definitely be an informative education program and that I would learn many helpful things. But it went far beyond that. It was very good. It was not just me, all my friends felt the same.

- HREP Participant, Ankara, 2018

For people like us who work in the field, programs like HREP actually function as a guide that truly strengthens our hand, facilitates our work, finds its way on to the agenda of those who work professionally and in the private lives of many; especially in terms of the violence or conflicts women may experience in the private sphere.

- HREP Participant, Diyarbakır, 2018

I think I changed thanks to the program. My attitude towards my children has changed. When something changes in me, my children change too. They have better relationships. And raise better children… This is what I mean by it being a cycle! It’s not something that will happen overnight, but when (HREP) touches someone’s life, it’s as if that person multiplies into many – just like starfish.

- HREP Participant, Diyarbakır, 2018

It did (prove effective in my communication) with my husband. In terms of understanding him, valuing him. When he says something I may not necessarily like at the moment, I go ‘OK, let’s look at it from your perspective as well, it’s a different approach’ if only so as not to hurt his feelings, and in this way I am able to respect his opinions. As a result, we no longer raise our voices. When we’re happy, our child is also happy. This makes us more effective parents. I respect my child’s opinions as well.

- HREP Participant, Istanbul, 2018

Sexuality is not something people are able to talk about much or express themselves comfortably on. It’s an area where there’s a dire need for women to have more conversations. Not that I mean to dismiss the other topics, but the sexuality (module) is definitely the most valuable – both due to its content and because it reveals how crucial it is to be talking about these things.

- HREP Participant, Diyarbakır, 2018

After HREP, we learned not to blow the problems in our lives out of proportion. I have a story, and so do you, and we are all strong enough to deal with it.

- HREP Participant, Izmir, 2018

The program really surpassed my expectations in terms of contributing to my self-improvement, getting me more in touch with myself and others around me, and helping me learn my rights.

- HREP Participant, Izmir, 2018

It’s a training that has impacted my life. It made such a deep impression on me. It created change in me. So I thought I shouldn’t keep it to myself; if I could change, so could other women. I became a trainer in order to be able to reach other women.

- HREP Group Facilitator, Diyarbakır, 2018

The difference I see between HREP and other means and methods employed by the women’s movement is that it touches all aspects of women’s lives.

- HREP Group Facilitator, Istanbul, 2018

It was one of the turning points in my life.

- HREP Group Facilitator, Izmir, 2018

It contributed a great deal to my professional life. I’ve worked a lot in women’s shelters. One criterion I now have is that people who work in shelters must have taken this women’s human rights training.

- KİHEP Group Facilitator, Ankara, 2018

(Women and men) are officially equal but not so in practice. All you need to do is watch the news just once. Even in the clearest, simplest cases women end up suffering harm. Or, you know, those court rulings we hear or read about. There’s a woman who is exploited, raped, assaulted and the man simply walks off with two years instead of five just because he wore a suit and tie. That is gender inequality.

- Husband of a HREP Participant, Istanbul, 2018

(My wife) gained self-confidence. Her communication skills improved. The change was sudden. She realized (the importance of) sharing things with her children. We notice (the change) in her towards us as well as her own self.

- Husband of a HREP Participant, Diyarbakır, 2018

My sister graduated from university. (University graduates) already have a certain degree of self-confidence. (My mother and aunt also participated in the training). Afterwards, there was a veritable surge of self-confidence in my mother in particular. She started taking up other interests saying ‘I can actually do this, and I can do that.’ Before that my mother used to be very closed off. She’d built a shell around herself. She would keep to herself inside that shell. Now she has begun working in our grocery store, she’s loosened up even more. She shed that shell of hers pretty quickly after having taken this training. There’s a local organization in our area – she began going there, for instance. She would usually have not interfered, but when they said ‘we need to file a lawsuit’ she volunteered and said ‘I’ll do it’. So she went to court. Or let’s say a demonstration is happening in town – normally she wouldn’t leave the house, she doesn’t like those kinds of things – now she’s out there and part of it. In that sense, it’s been very good for her.

- Husband and Son of HREP Participants, Izmir, 2018

She is able to express herself everywhere. If something isn’t being handled right in a public office or a hospital or any other institution, she stands firm until she gets it done. And she doesn’t do this just for herself, but for (others around her) who have had a hard time getting their job done. I like it that she is strong that way.

- Husband of a HREP Participant, Izmir, 2018

I used to that it (feminism) was just misandry or male-bashing on the part of women. (My position) changed after my wife attended HREP; I realized that it actually is about women claiming their rights.

- Husband of a HREP Participant, Izmir, 2018

I guess I grew up without learning how to say no, so even though I’ve always been a talker I wasn’t actually good at expressing myself. I would mask my thoughts and opinions in plurals, using ‘we’ rather than I-language, or making it seem as if I was simply echoing society’s beliefs. Here I learned how to say ‘this is what I think’ or ‘this is what I want’.

- HREP Participant, Istanbul, 2018

I saw all the women as my sisters. I realized I had become more alert to violence and early and forced marriages. I’m planning to suggest the program to my friends as well and encourage them to join.

- HREP Participant, Istanbul, 2018

It’s a training every woman should receive. I have so much more knowledge about our rights at the moment, and this has made me feel stronger.

- HREP Participant, Kocaeli, 2018

I’m a housewife. I’ve seen that working in the house involves an enormous cost. But I’ve realized how women who stay at home are basically dismissed as not working, idle, and unproductive. I’ve learned that there’s need to bring visibility to women’s domestic labor – and another very important thing: that for this, you need to organize. I learned what it means to organize, and what people who come together around a certain cause are capable of doing.

- HREP Participant, Izmir, 2013

I started out on an inward journey, gaining an awareness of my own shortcomings and issues that I hadn’t previously dealt with on a conscious level. I realized that gender roles imposed on men and women were being systematically and deliberately reinforced by, in fact, the state. I developed an understanding of notions such as prejudice and the collective conscious. I realized that women were being subjected to all of these many kinds of violence, and became informed about the legal rights we have as recourse against them.

- HREP Participant, Istanbul, 2018

Learning about my rights in the HREP training gave me self-confidence, I found myself able to stand taller on my own two feet. I’m much better at defending myself. I’m more in touch with my body as a woman. It turns out so many of our rights are constantly being violated! I learned about the laws in place for women that aren’t implemented properly in practice. I feel stronger within my family right now, having seen that we have in fact been inflicting all kinds of violence upon ourselves in the family without realizing, all supposedly in the name of ‘sacrifice’.

- HREP Participant, Adıyaman, 2018

I let out all that I had kept bottled up within me and got rid of the lump in my throat. Trust made this possible, and the fact that everybody there was receiving the same training as me was very helpful. My perspective on things changed a lot. I learned how to say ‘I’ and ‘me’. Every session came like a gift. Whenever I shared something, everybody would listen and nobody would comment. You know how there are those things that come to your mind or that you have been wanting to tell someone and unburden yourself of for years and you simply can’t speak them out. That’s exactly what I did. I went out and said, ‘This is what I’ve been thinking about, this is what I’ve been turning around in my head’. I had therapy for 16 weeks. I’m leaving a much happier person.

- HREP Participant, Ankara, 2018

We have been running the Human Rights Education Program for Women (HREP) developed by Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways under the umbrella of the Marmaris Municipality Women’s Council. The question is, what can we do by coming together as WOMEN and nothing but women, without any divides between the east, west, north or south of Turkey, and irrespective of religion, language, race or educational background? We are together both to question and to enjoy, to think as well as exchange. We warmly invite all those who may wish to join us. We must come together for a better, brighter, healthier, and more informed future.

- HREP Group Facilitator, Muğla, 2011

I learned that more women needed to be in politics, and that it was important and useful for women to organize. After the training, my communication with my children changed for the better.

- HREP Participant, Izmir, 2011

The training was very useful. It gave me the opportunity to fill myself in on what I knew in rough outlines or complete information I was missing. It raised my awareness, gave me a different window on to everything taking place around me and on the news.

- HREP Participant, Antalya, 2012

The training was definitely incredibly useful to me. I’m so sorry it’s over. It was like I would start a brand new life every Thursday. I became aware of a lot of things I didn’t know or maybe knew but ignored since I didn’t think it would ever happen to me so it wasn’t my concern. I found the chance to get to know myself better. I realized that I am, after all, a feminist.

- HREP Participant, Izmir, 2009

In this program, we shared our most private thoughts, experiences and feelings with each other. I think this was because we trusted and respected each other. I learned about our differences, our points of view, and the importance of listening to each other and respecting everybody’s opinion.

- HREP Participant, Denizli, 2008

After taking part in the program I was able to recover from depression. I’m more outgoing now and open to novelties. I’m also proud of being a woman. I sincerely thank every single person who contributed to preparing this program and organizing our participation in it.

- HREP Participant, Çanakkale, 2007

I am better informed in terms of women’s rights. I know where to go to, what services to seek out when anything unwanted happens to me. I’m better at expressing myself. I am a well-informed person and an asset to my community. It’s boosted my self-confidence. I consider myself lucky for having received this training.

- HREP Participant, Konya, 2009