Stopping Violence Against Women: The Women Behind the Movement (Part 3)

In the first two parts of this interview where I interviewed Cindy Dyer of Vital Voices and  Carol Kurzig of the Avon Foundation, we got a look at the different programs and initiatives that are taking place here at home to stop violence against women and help those who were victims of it.  But as I said before violence against women isn’t just a domestic problem but an international one where women around the world are doing something about it.  One such woman is Dr. Berna Eren of Turkey.  She attended International Women’s Day as a delegate this year and in this final part of the interview I got to learn about the organization she works for (the Human Resource Development Foundation), how this problem has affected the women in her country, and what is being done about it.

Berna Eren, MD, PhD Executive Director, the Human Resource Development Foundation


Dr. Berna Eren currently works at the Human Resource Development Foundation as the Executive Director. She began her work at the Foundation after 20 years of working at different levels and institutions of Ministry of Health as a physician and administrator.  Dr. Eren holds degrees from Marmara University Medical School, Anadolu University Faculty of Business Administration, Leeds University Nuffield Institute for Health, and Istanbul University Istanbul Medical School.

1. How have you and your foundation been involved in furthering the goals of awareness, education, and prevention when it comes to violence against women?

* Violence against women is a serious problem in Turkey. Between 26% and 57% of ever-married women in Turkey experienced physical or sexual violence by a husband in her life and these were on average twice as likely to have bad health as women who have not : about one in every 4 women who have been physically abused by their husbands reported injuries.

Therefore, HRDF conducted a project in 2005-2006 to provide in-service trainings to health service providers who initially encounter the gender based violence cases at the health facilities in 10 provinces in Turkey. The training program contained awareness rising on gender based violence, its consequences in terms of sexual and reproductive health and rights and expanding the use of specific examination and reporting techniques for these cases. Under the project we have trained a total of 274 health personnel and lawyers to become trainers who in turn trained a total of 429 people at the regional trainings. HRDF has also developed, printed and distributed A total of 10,000 brochures and 500 posters as well as 1,000 participants book and 500 trainers manual.

* Sex workers are one of the most-at-risk groups when it comes to violence, discrimination and HIV/AIDS. Their lack of access to legal, social and health services make them vulnerable. There are very few organizations, which provide any support or services for these groups.

HRDF has been working with this target group since 1995. In 2005, we have launched a project to support sex workers in Istanbul by maximizing their security and protecting their human rights/reproductive health rights and also to support their safe sex behaviour and therefore prevent STIs including HIV/AIDS. A counseling center called “Women’s Door” to provide counseling and trainings to these groups has been established in 2005. Under the project, sex workers are trained to become peer-educators; almost 4000 sex workers have been provided with training, 208 sex workers with counseling; a total of 27,731 condoms and 6,090 brochures have been distributed. Also, press conferences were organized and press bulletins were distributed to the members of press to raise awareness within this group for the sex workers and to decrease discrimination against them.

Although the above mentioned project is finalized, the Women’s Door is still functional as a counseling/social center and is being funded through different donors. Currently, HRDF conducts a project to promote of human rights of sex workers including transgender.

* Human trafficking has been an important phenomenon affecting many countries in the recent decades and it is an important violence against human rights. Turkey is a destination country for the countries in the region.
HRDF is the first NGO that developed and launched its “Combating Human Trafficking Programme” in Turkey in 2003. We are involved in combating human trafficking activities since then. The overall objective of our program is to contribute to international efforts and to enhance the national capacity of Turkey to prevent trafficking in women as well as to increase awareness of Turkish population on trafficking in women.  HRDF accomodates the foreign “victims of human trafficking”, who are identified by the law enforcement, at its shelter that is functional since November 2004 where the VoTs are provided with psychological counseling and medical support.

HRDF implements training programs and/or workshops on human traffciking targeting different stakeholders including law enforcement, judiciary staff, health personnel; and also has developed several information materials including brochures, posters and booklets as well as providing input for some others in the context of its anti trafficking program. Our experts participate at many national and international meetings to present HRDF’s anti trafficking activities and to discuss with other stakeholders about durable solutions for the ongoing problems regarding human trafficking.

2. What unique challenges do the women of Turkey face when it comes to violence against them?  What progress has been made and what changes still need to be made?  How does the Human Resource Development Foundation plan to help bring these changes about?

Gender-based violence constitutes one of the major mechanisms through which women, gays and transsexuals/transgenders are excluded from social, economic and political life in Turkey. A recent survey shows that about half of the women living with violence have never told anyone of the abuse before being interviewed showing that partner violence is very much a hidden problem and that women find it difficult to talk.

In Turkey, General Directorate of Women’s Status has been founded in 1990 under the State Ministry, their mission is to develop policies and strategies to empower women and to prevent discrimination against women as well as collaborating with the stakeholders and to coordinate the activities in this endeavour. HRDF is one of the partners of the General Directorate.

HRDF is dedicated to continue with its efforts to develop activities, strategies and advocacy efforts to empower the most-at-risk groups.

Photo courtesy of: Avon

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