October 18: Lily, Selcuk

Lily sells carpets.  Not only that she has her own carpet shop, right across the street from the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk.  I was introduced to Lily by Sue who lives on Vashon Island, a short ferry ride from my home in Seattle.  Sue, who is herself a weaver and who has lived in Turkey and traveled to Turkey many times, also is the proud owner of a carpet she purchased from Lily.

When I first contacted Lily, she responded right away, in a very open and friendly email.  She approved of our choice of a place to stay in Selcuk, assured me that she, too, loved conversation, that we could meet in her shop, and that she would drive us to Ephesus.

We arrived in Selcuk after a six and half hour bus ride from Antalya.  The bus system in Turkey is outstanding.  The scenery on this leg of the journey was wonderful.  We found our hotel with no trouble at all.  It was delightful – clean as could be, run by Osmond and his family, a small swimming pool in a small but lovely garden, and roof top dining outdoors.

Well, though we had been soaking p the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean the day before, by the time we arrive in Selcuk the temperature had dropped to 6 degrees celsius and, according to the TV it was snowing in Istanbul!  Osmond insisted that it was OK to eat outside on the roof, and I guess it was if you don’t mind wearing all of your warm clothes and eating with your gloves on!

Oh, and he indeed assured us that Lily would be by to pick us up about 8:30 the next morning to take us to Ephesus.

And, so she was.  Lily is a delightful young woman.  Her parents had had a hotel she told us, and had retired and sold it.  She now had her own business and also daily took folks from the Nazar Hotel to Ephesus and back.  This was only about a five minute ride we discovered, and we agreed that Lily would pick us up at 2:30 in the afternoon after we had toured Ephesus to our heart’s content.  Ephesus by the way, is one of the best preserved (or restored) ruins of the Roman Empire.  Completely awesome! ! !

But for me, a visit with Lily was just as marvelous.  We went directly to her shop; Jim went to get a bite to eat, and Lily and I settled on a sofa in her shop for a visit.  Yes, she is a business woman.  Yes, she is one of the 7% of Turkish women counted as “employed,” (outside the home, not supported by father or husband.)  Yes, she is a member of the Chamber of Commerce.  Yes, she is a rare model for other young Turkish women her life demonstrating that getting married while young is not the only possibility.

And, yes, at 36, she is independent, owns her own shop, experiences all of the challenges of that, as well as the joy of directing her own life.  She sells – and sends – carpets to customers all over the world.  Her most recent customers were from Colorado in the U.S. and from Ireland.

With Lily’s positive energy and courage and “Hugs” from me,


October 16: Heather, Antalya

Heather was my very first connection to women in Turkey as I set out to find folks who might be interested in talking with me about the role of women in global leadership – and in particular, what it is like to be a woman at this time in history in Turkey.  I had googled something like “women in Turkey” and her blog, Feminist Activism popped up on my screen.  I was startled, and intrigued.  I was impressed with what I read.  It was articulate, passionate.  I subscribed.

Then I emailed Heather.  “I am not an activist,” I remember stating clearly -“and I think we may have much in common!” Bless her.  She responded and we stayed in touch as my plans materialized and our journey began. . . . . . And suddenly we were meeting “at the Clock Tower” in Antalya.

The Clock Tower – one of the many surviving or rebuilt structures reflecting the hundreds of generations that have called this place home.  How uncanny that we would meet there – at the time I was struggling so to accept that perhaps women had never inspired such awe, had never been so valued as I had thought.  It was time to look ahead.  And here was Heather.  Young, knowledgeable, educated, courageous, smart, passionate.  One of her undergraduate majors was Women’s Studies.  Plus she has a graduate degree in Gender and Peacebuilding from the University for Peace in Costa Rica.  She shares that in her family (in the United States) intellectual development and expressing one’s opinions was encouraged.

This is a gift U.S. women have to offer the world.  When safety, shelter, food, clean water, health care are much more available than in many parts of the world, when young women are encouraged to think, to express their own opinions, to develop all of their potential, when all of this is available – women have the precious opportunity to look beyond their immediate daily needs, to examine world issues, to learn of the work of other women and to build on that, to find those ways in which they can best contribute to creating a future that benefits all, not just themselves.

Heather met her partner, whom she describes as an “American Turk,” in San Diego.  He had come to Austin, Texas from Turkey, and from there to San Diego.  He, too, is an absolutely delightful individual.  These two are now living in Antalya, Turkey, near his family.  They took us to dinner, at a special restaurant where organic foods were served, for a delicious meal and great conversation.

Please do yourself a favor and check out Heather’s blog, www.feministactivism.com/       A recent post described a conference in which she participated, In Women’s Hands.  The conference brought together women activists and organizers from  Srebrenica and Sarajevo.   Her most recent post, “Love Your Body Day.”

Thanks, Heather!


October 15: The Journeys Converge, Antalya

Introducing this Blog, September 15, 2011, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles,” I described two journeys – one was the actual trip through Turkey, on which I was about to embark, and from which most of the posts so far have been made – – and the other the metaphorical journey that women around the world are traveling.  These journeys have converged for me at this point, in a potent, painful and I suppose necessary way.

I am sitting on a small hill, a bluff at the edge of the Mediterranean.  The sky behind the Taurus mountains across the water is a soft pink.  The water itself is smooth, satiny.  Doves are pecking out their breakfast around my feet.  It is a gentle scene, quite a contrast to the emotions raging inside of me.

Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, and actually for five to ten years leading up to that, the clarity of understanding about my work in the world came into sharp focus.  First was clarity about “global.”  My work was – and is – global.  That seemed arrogant and incongruous for a girl who grew up in the rural mid-west of this vast nation known as the United States.  But so it was.  Of course that’s the deal when it comes to one’s “calling” in life; it is not a logically planned journey; it is a continually emergent journey, based on trust, filled with surprise, synchronicities and puzzling uncertainties.

The second clarity was that my work was to be about women’s leadership ~ not a focus on supporting the leadership development of individual women, but rather about evoking, calling out, encouraging, nurturing women’s leadership – the leadership of all women. Kofi Annan, then Secretary of the United Nations, said the 21st century was the century of women.  I got it – not in a rich way, but I got a sense of the essence of that meaning.

I realize that coming to teach at Antioch was very much a part of this journey of my work in the world – because my colleagues and our students taught me about systems and I came to understand the real difference between an individual woman’s leadership  —  and women — stepping up, stepping into, standing in the leadership that is already deep within them and is necessary to manifest at this time,  if we as a human species are to survive, let alone thrive.

It is clear that this is not an individual journey.  It is a collective journey.  The meaning of the Yin/Yang symbol that has resonated with me for many years, has reached new depths.  Robert Taylor,  a nationally recognized leader and author, who now lives in Seattle, grew up in South Africa.  Desmond Tutu was his mentor.  Robert recently sent me a note sharing that at Tutu’s 80th birthday in conversation with the Dalai Lama, Tutu was asked about one thing that would change the world.  He replied that women should lead the world.   We have indeed, as a species, come as far as we can go with only male energy leading us.  Feminine energy is not needed as a supportive adjunct.  It is necessary as a leading energy, giving voice to the vision and the values that will create our future.

This actual journey we are on, this travel through Turkey was partly motivated for me by the thought of being able to stand on the land where the goddess was  worshipped – so long ago.  Imagining the Neolithic times, where egalitarian life style was the norm, where there were no monuments to fighting and war, was a powerful, refreshing and energizing vision.  To know that at one point in history me and women were equally valued – seemed a precious place to stand, from which to once again create – in this age – a world where women and men are equally valued.

To learn that this is no longer the way that period is understood, to have to give up a belief that was so central to me, has been as traumatic an experience as I can imagine.  The convergence of our journey as women with my actual journey to the Neolithic archeological site at Catal Huyuk has shaken my world.  I do not have a nice foundation on which to stand.  I must let go of that notion – and look ahead with the realization that we are indeed creating the future.

The questions remain, of course.  How did we as women get into this subordinate place?  How is it that for thousands of years we have participated in maintaining a system where we are valued less, discounted, and often even today, treated with violence?  We will continue to explore these questions in subsequent posts.  The message of this one is about the agony of giving up cherished beliefs – – – – and the necessity to do so – – – in order to truly move into new understanding, to create our own future.

I see that future unfolding before me.  In a sense I saw it before, but I did not know the power of what I saw.  I see more clearly now the potency of creative business women, such as Eveline, Silvia, Banu, Lilly, carving out a way to give their gifts – to share their skills, to enjoy their creative process – and in so doing provide both jobs for others and products that are satisfying to their customers.

I see Leyla’s leadership as the powerful gift that it is – not only to the women who need to recover from abuse, but to a social system that is learning its way from unbridled power and control over other human beings to more respect for each individual – man or woman.  I can treasure in a whole new way the potency of Heather’s poking and probing old, unexamined belief systems through her Feminist Activism blog.  And the list goes on and on.

What a gift the conversations on this trip have provided for me.  Visionary, creative, skilled, savvy and courageous women are indeed creating the future day by day.  They are not waiting for approval.  They are not waiting for external authority or resources. They are authorizing themselves, and in many cases using their own limited resources, to create a new reality with intention, consciousness of the greater whole and trust in their own power and the competence and power of those they attract to themselves.

It is an amazing time!

I hope that my sharing a bit about these women we’ve met may encourage and inspire you, evoke your own courage to do whatever it is that is yours to do.

I also hope that the women I’ve met may connect with one another, or at least, find and connect with other kindred spirits.  BECAUSE one of the ways we contribute to traditional subordinate roles is that we are frequently unaware of the contributions of one another.  We do not support one another as much as we might.  We are unaware of some of the lessons and knowledge gained by women in previous ages.  We do not build on the work of one another as much as we might.

AND – that is changing.  We are at a point where we have access to the work of other women – both from the past, and from the far away spots around the world.  Role models are available to us as never before!  The stories of the women featured on this blog, and on the www.womenleadingtheway.com web site are examples of women leaders who might live right next door to you, might be part of your community.

Only a few weeks ago the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women:  Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first freely elected female president, Leymah Gbowee, who mobilized fellow women against the Liberian civil war including by organizing a “sex strike,” and Tawakkul Karman, a leader in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.  “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” noted Thorbjoern Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

In Istanbul, on the same day the Nobel Peace Prizes were announced, on the front page of the English newspaper, Daily News,  Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, is pictured striding alongside her counterpart, Turkish President, Abdullah Gui.  Rousseff was named as the third most powerful woman in the world in 2010, by Forbes Magazine.

We have great partners on this journey!

And we are great partners for one another!



October 14: Ayse, Konya

After our bus ride from Goreme to Konya (very flat, wheat fields, and potatoes) on Tuesday, about 3 and a half hours, we were eager to get out and walk a bit.  So, we set out to find Silvia’s shop – thinking I would meet with her the next day.  (See my earlier post to learn about Silvia.)  As we entered the shop, a young woman clearly recognized us as non-Turks and quickly learned that we had come to meet Silvia.  She began to explain to us – in Turkish – that Silvia was out.  Another young woman, we assumed perhaps another employee, stepped into the conversation and explained in English that it would be an hour before Silvia would return.  As we walked out of the shop she continued to talk with us and said wouldn’t we please have tea with her while we were waiting for Silvia.  A friend of hers had a small restaurant nearby, she told us, and that is how we met Ayse!

And what a delight!  She was eager to visit with us and we loved talking with her!!!  She grew up near Goreme, studied business in college and went to Istanbul to work in a bank.  She didn’t like that work and Istanbul so much, however, so after some time decided to come to Konya and work in her father’s pharmacy.  I believe she has a Master’s degree in business – in any event, she has done postgraduate work and now is studying pharmacy.

There are other professional women here, but I had a sense that, as most things revolve around the family, it may be hard to create your own social network.  She said as a divorced woman it was very difficult in Istanbul, because if you had money (a good job) many men wanted to be with you just for that.  It is not so hard here in Konya she said.

Her friend, in whose shop we had tea had been a chemistry teacher, loved food and decided to open her own restaurant.  Now her husband works at the restaurant as well.  BPW is present in Turkey – this is a women’s business and professional organization to which many U. S. women belong.

One of the interesting parts of our conversation was prompted by her question about our plans for the next day.  When we told her that we were meeting with a student of Cemalnur Sargut and would be visiting the Mevlana museum with him – eyes lighted up!  She honors the work of this Sufi teacher, listens to her when she is on television and perhaps has attended or reads about some of her conferences.  While the expat women with whom we have met are unfamiliar with the work of Cemalnur Sargut, she is well known and deeply respected and appreciated among many Turkish people.

Several interesting bits of information fell into place during our conversation.  For example we learned that the Turkish government requires that all children attend school through 8th grade.  Good jobs require English.  Companies prefer men – because women can take take off 6 months when they have a child, and the company would rather not bother with that.  On the other hand, she said, if you say here – “I can’t come in today.  I’m having my period and don’t feel well.”  That is OK.  In Istanbul she explained, that would be totally unacceptable.

When I asked her what leadership meant to her – she said women begin leading in the family.  And they may run a business or an organization such as mothers who organize and raise funds for orphans.  And, I would add, that young women like Ayse, are also leaders simply by the way they and intentionally living their own lives in the midst of very changing and challenging times!

Ayse has been to the U.S. several times.   Her brother and his wife live in Georgia.  The wife is a professor at Georgia Tech.  She is quite clear that she doesn’t want their lifestyle – they are busy all the time – – working, working, working.  And, in a way that sums up the dilemma for many women in the more industrialized countries – busy, busy, busy – do we have time for the most important parts of our lives?

Connecting with Ayse was a delightful surprise! ! !   I’m so grateful for the many serendipitous happenings on this trip – this is certainly one of them.

Hugs to all of you,


October 14: Cigdem, Ankara

Cigdem is an archeologist ~ her focus is Neolithic culture.  She refers to this as “the Neolithic process,”  – – – — not “the Neolithic period.”  Several persons we’ve talked with have a sense of history as continual process.  A most significant reminder to me – and, I suspect, many of you as well ! ! !

She says archeologists generally consider this period as coming at the end of the last ice age when various parts of the earth became more hospitable for humans.  These were hunter-gatherer societies that moved around, often in a fairly small geographic area, gradually becoming more sedentary around a site and using the resources of that area.  The reasons for this are not only economic, but also symbolic – rituals for a successful hunt, perhaps.  The time frame – 10,000 BC; in the Dead Sea area, probably 14,000-13,000 BC.  By around 6000 BC settlements were depending on agriculture.

We were particularly interested in the Catal Huyuk site near Konya, Turkey which were planning to visit.  By around 7000 BC sedentary groups were common in this area – and some of them were very large – as many as 1500 people at one site.  These settlements were sometimes maintained at one site for several thousand years.  When a house was no longer livable, a new house was built immediately on top of it.

The social organization Cigdem described was most interesting.  There was hierarchy, she told us, but not central authority.  Status was based on such things as one’s family, age, skill, gender – probably male.  The ritual specialist was one of the most important.  Such a person could organize a ceremony for the hunt, for example and at the end of the hunt that person’s influence ended.  That is, when a person was a leader for one purpose that leadership did not extend to broad, long term influence or control.

I find this quite fascinating in light of current thinking of complexity theory – – that day by day, moment by moment we are continually creating our reality.  And Fritjof Capra’s lucid description of form and process – what stays the same (that is, changes at a much slower pace) gives shape to that which is continually changing.  It seems that what gave shape to these Neolithic cultures was a basic family organization, and wisdom was transmitted generation to generation.  At Catal Huyuk, for example, people literally lived with their ancestors. The dead were buried beneath the floors of the homes.

These houses were not merely places of shelter.  They were the place where one belonged.  Cigdem says there did not seem to be a concept of “owning property,” but a very strong sense of belonging.  So these houses were where people lived with the past, birthed new generations, acknowledged significant ceremonies – such as coming of age and marriage.  There is strong investment in the family group.

There are no significant differences in the burial sites that would suggest males or females were considered more important.  There seemed to be relatively egalitarian access to resources.  There was no “chief.”   Nevertheless – some persons and some families came to be more favored as having rights to administer, to make decisions that influenced all.

The theory proposed by James Mellaart (who first discovered this site, 1965) that the presence of figurines such as those at Catal Huyuk, the absence of objects of war, etc. suggested Goddess worship – seems to be largely discounted by current archeologists.

SO, the questions live on:

  • How is it that some people would accept other people’s power and authority over them?
  • How is it that women become subordinate to men?

Gerda Lerner, social historian, researches this general topic in extensive detail and eloquently describes her exploration and conclusions in her two volumes,

The Creation of Patriarchy (1987) and The Creation of Feminine Consciousness (1994).  We will explore her work in a later post.

For now may we simply revel in the incredible human history of which we are a part.  May we glean wisdom from it – and contribute wisdom to it.


October 13: Silvia, Konya

Silvia is from Argentina.  She came to Turkey when she was 17 to study  – – –  and stayed.  She studied cartography, and then the design of Turkish rugs.   She married a man whose family has been in the carpet business for generations.  As her husband began to use wool for felting, as well as weaving, she came to “touch the wool” and that brought a big shift in her work.  She realized she wanted to work with her hands – to create the designs, not just draw them.  From her husband she learned the process of felting, and then from Europeans she learned a different method. She combined the two processes to create her own unique method.

This process is fascinating!  It is like “painting” with bits of wool.  On a background of 2 or 3 layers of bonded wool, Silvia takes a bit of bright rose wool, dips it in a mixture of soapy water, and before our eyes creates a beautiful rose  – – adding a stem here, leaves there.  Then, the piece is rolled and squeezed so that the surfaces of the design begin to bond to the background.  It is unrolled, more soapy water, squeezed again — and again — and again — until the finished item is about half its original size and has an appearance somewhat resembling boiled wool – for those of you familiar with that.

I doubt that Sylvia would consider herself a “leader,” though to me she certainly is one.  We visited her shop – which I expected to be “a shop.”  It is actually a workshop where this beauty is created.  One wall is filled with bins of brilliant bulk wool, tables on which the designs are actually created fill much of the space, and their handwork is displayed for sale on another wall. Tea is available.  The designs are created not only on wool, but also on silk backgrounds.

Two young women were at work while we were there – creating floral patterns on long strips of silk, which would become lovely scarves.  These two, Silvia said, had come from nearby villages because they did not want to get married.  One was not studying.  The other was studying archeology.

Silvia was off to Ankara the following day – for meetings regarding her shop becoming certified by the government as a source of genuine Turkish handcrafts.

Making the world a little more beautiful every day!

Best wishes to each of you,


October 12: Banu, Konya

This evening (10/12/11) Ragib, his wife, and their daughter, Sara, came to the hotel. What fun it was to “sorta” host them. On the third floor where our room was located, there was a small sitting room – fireplace, love seats, a TV, computer.  Our hotel manager graciously agreed that we could have tea served – and we had purchased dates (melt in your mouth), delicious fresh pears and hazelnuts.

What a delightful conversation! ! !  Ragib has a business.  His wife, Banu, has a business – designing and building office furniture.  She is an architect – and a “live wire!”  She made sure we understood it was office furniture – not kitchen furniture or children’s furniture.  She also has submitted a proposal for a special grant for designing and building office furniture that is earthquake proof – as this is an area in the world where earthquakes are relatively common.

Banu is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and BPW.  She was one of a few women from Konya selected by the Turkish government to help encourage and support entrepreneurial work of other local women.  The process worked something like this:

*  This select group of women help the government identify such women who might qualify – the emphasis is on  helping women expand what they are already doing in their homes – – in order to make money.  For example making jams and jellies, or expanding their delicious cooking to sell to others or to cater.

*  The government gives classes (free, I think) to which these women could come — to learn about how to work with banks, how to get credit, how to comply with government requirements, what insurance is necessary and how to get it etc.  There is an exam and the women have to pass in order to get support from government to get started.

*  Some attend the training and decide this is not for them!

Banu told amazing stories of two women in particular who have been great success stories – – one from the city of Konya and one from a nearby village.  A KEY has been that they have somehow convinced their husbands to accept what they are doing.

Banu will write up the story of one of these women to post on our web site!  Thanks in advance, Banu.

Banu is a leader – – – no question.  She mentors other women, hires women, is very articulate and confident!  We all benefit from the clear, positive energy she brings to this world.

We also so enjoyed the loving dynamics of this family – though we did not get a chance to meet their son who is eleven.  Ragib is clearly proud of Banu.  Daughter Sarah plans to be a designer.  She is especially interested in designing planes (!)  Great teasing between father and daughter about her wearing boots which he thinks are ugly.  🙂  Sarah was chosen for an exchange student – to go to Japan this year, but because of the potential health hazards the family turned down that opportunity.  They are, however, hosting a young man from Mexico and Sarah explained how they enjoy sometimes going to church with him.

This whole family is a gift – in their engagement in life, their respect and love for one another, their commitment to their own faith, and their openness and appreciation of others and others’ beliefs.  And, it seems they may be insightful enough to embrace the industrialism and capitalism available to them AND to temper it so that they do not become prisoners to “more, more, more, bigger is better.”  May all of us engage in this common seeking.

We are honored to have connected with them.

Warm regards to each of you,


October 12: Ragib, Konya

This is a different kind of post today (Wednesday, 10/12/11) – not a focus on a specific woman – – until a surprise at the end of the day! – – but rather an incredible day with Ragib.

As our magical trip has progressed, we have been blessed by wonderful people, delightful “coincidences,” and synchronicities of being in the right place at the right time.  Today was a highlight when all of these seemed orchestrated to provide amazing experiences!

When we met with Cemalnur Sargut in Istanbul, she graciously suggested that perhaps one of her students in Konya might host us when we arrived there.  And we soon learned that indeed Mr. Ragib Bagriacik had apparently agreed to do this.  He met us at our hotel at 9:30 in the morn and took us first to a Mosque where one of Rumi’s close associates was buried.  It is small, beautiful – and the first thing I noticed was that women seemed to go any place they chose, rather than being required to stay in the back or upstairs.  When I asked Mr. Ragib about this, he smiled and noted that in Konya “We are not as strict as in Istanbul.”

As we made our way to the Mevlana Museum, we learned that Mr. Ragib and his wife and some others meet every Wednesday evening to study the teachings of the Koran, led by a woman who reads Arabic, and through the interpretations of teacher Cemalnur Sargut and others.  We also learned that he had lived in Boston several years, going there initially to get an MBA, but instead he found work in a textile organization and decided to “learn on the job.”  That he did, and now is back in Turkey managing his own organization.

When he bought our tickets to the Mevlana Museum he connected with a woman who was in a small building near the gate – – and explained to us that this was the 21st granddaughter of Rumi (Mevlana) and she would like us to have tea with her after we toured the Museum!

As we exited the Museum and found our way back to the small house – alas, it was filled with many people meeting with the granddaughter.  However, as the group broke and moved upstairs to another small room – – we were invited to join this group! ! !   Two or three Sufi teachers and some of their students comprised the group.  Soon all 35 of us were seated in a very small room with benches along the four walls.  And an awesome experience began.  The group sang and sang and sang – the singing interspersed with prayers.  Not understanding the words was wonderful as it freed us to allow the music, the sacredness to resonate within out hearts.

After several songs, accompanied by a single drummer, one of the seven men in the group took off his shoes, stood, and engaged in the dervish whirling dance.  The authentic presence and sacred belief of these people, and their welcoming of us, was an amazingly powerful experience.  What an indication of the oneness of our universe – – – which is, in fact, one of the basic Sufi principle.  We were touched and honored, and fully engaged with them – heart to heart.

The Sufis seem strongly committed to study AND practice.  The whirling Dervish, whose ceremony I was able to observe in Cappodocia, for example, were professional and business MEN.  This is the way they serve.  There seems to be no priestly class – well not a strong evidence of that is obvious.  Although Cemalnur Sargut was very clear in explaining to us that her commitment was to Allah and the Prophet – before her husband, her daughter, her son.

Ragib strongly emphasized that there is nothing between you and God.  And, that all are one in God’s house – which is the whole world.  He again told the story we had heard from Cemalnur about the fingers and thumb coming together, gently rocking the hand back and forth means “beautiful,” and inside each finger and thumb is different.  He also spoke of the world as a pomegranate – – composed of the many, many small parts.  I shared with him my awareness of the picture from outer space and how it teaches us that we all have the same home.

As we parted company with Mr. Ragib and exchanged cards – he said to me, “Oh, you must meet my wife!!! ”  And so, we arranged that he and his wife would come to our hotel that evening after work!   Her story is the subject of our next post….

October 10: Selen, Ankara

Selen is a journalist and has chosen to use her skills at Flying Broom, a media oriented NGO that works for women’s rights.

Flying Broom will celebrate its 15th anniversary in May, 2012.  This is an unusually long life for a women’s organization in Turkey where four and a half years is the average life span for such an organization.

Selen described four of the key programs of Flying Broom.  The most widely recognized is a Film Festival they sponsor each year.  They choose a theme – this year it was “power” – power in the family, in schools, in workplaces, and in the social and political arenas. Commercial quality films are selected that deal with the theme and that are directed by women. They give awards, sponsor events around the film viewings, use public service announcements, TV and radio interviews – – and use every opportunity to raise awareness about women’ issues, problems and possibilities for change.

Their focus in their programs and their print publications include violence against women, women’s political participation, stories about women, and information of interest to women.

Their print publications – a newsletter, a Journal, booklets, brochures, posters – form a second key program.  They produce accurate, pointed, and extremely high quality materials.  There is an English page on their web site that you can check out.  And, I’ve invited Selen to submit news articles for our womenleadingtheway.com site.

One of the really significant things they have done is to invite women from all over Turkey who have some skills and lots of interest – to become “reporters” for them.  Flying Broom provides them some training.  This, of course, greatly broadens the scope of women’s perspectives, engages whole additional groups of women, and, in general creates a larger network of women connected to one another.

“We use many tools in our work,” Selen assures us, as she goes on to describe a way they have been working on third key program – eliminating the child bride practice.  “We made a trip through 54 cities in Turkey,” she says.  “It was exciting to wake up every morning in a different city.  In each place we sponsored public conversation on the Child Bride issue.”  This practice is illegal in Turkey, and yet is a deeply embedded tradition.  Local officials usually assured us that the problem did not exist in their city, but we said, “Well, we need to talk to the women.”  And we asked those who gathered – What are the reasons this practice still exists?  What are the results?   Many were not clear that arranging for child bride was against the law.  And we explained that it was, what could happen to their families, and what they can do.

Yes it is hard, Selen told us – to hear the story of a 10 year old girl wed to a 70 year old man – for money – – – – and then to get up the next morning with a sense of hope and enthusiasm to meet with a new group of people.  And there are not small groups  – 700 to 800 people may gather.  “We help them understand that ‘NO’ this is not destiny.  There are things you can do.”

“Selen exercises enormous leadership,” Leyla (who introduced us) tells us – ‘in media relations, gender issues, significant knowledge and influence regarding the Child Bride issue, teaching and training on organizational dynamics issues at the University.”

You can check their web site around October 27 to learn about a meeting they have organized at Parliament.  I believe it will feature some writing by Selen and also the Minister of the new government agency, Family and Social Programs will speak.  This agency replaces the recently dissolved Ministry for Women’s Affairs.

These amazing women we are meeting are a great inspiration!

And – I’ve just learned that it is raining today so time to think

about how best to savor this particular day ! ! ! !

Warm regards,


October 10: Leyla, Ankara

Leyla is a pathfinder, a pioneer, a strong woman with a powerful vision.  And someone with whom I was clearly led to connect.  Some of you know the story – a friend in Seattle introduced me to Leyla – “You must connect with Leyla, she said, she is a psychologist in Turkey who works with women.”  When I mentioned her in one of my classes, Diane, a member of the class, said, “I think I work with her son.”  Sure enough, they work together in a non-profit in Olympia, WA in the U.S.

Leyla has been the epitome of graciousness hosting us here in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey- – – she suggested a perfect hotel, shared generously of her time, introduced us to the Castle area  (fantastic views of the city, delightful shops, life as it has been for decades and decades.  She helped us buy our bus ticket to Cappadocia, our next destination, and shared a marvelous dinner with us at an Ottoman home near the old castle area.  The food was delicious, the views spectacular, the 3 piece musical ensemble was perfect – AND, the house itself is worth a trip to Turkey.  The restaurant was on the third floor – and to get there one goes through a number of little niches that beg for stopping for tea, old tools are displayed here and there, pictures of famous folks who have visited, and Turkish textiles everywhere – rugs large and small, cushions, decorative striips with tassels hanging from the rafters . . . .  Oh, and a woman makes their bread there and bakes in on a griddle over an open fire.  Yep, I loved it!  🙂

But much more than any of the sights, including an award-winning archeological museum, we enjoyed talking with Leyla – who graciously answered our dozens of questions, shared stories of her work, introduced us to the history of this country and shared her assessment of the current political and economic situation.

Leyla was born in Turkey, lived here until she was three, was back again when she was in the sixth grade and attended sixth grade here in Turkey – in Turkish.  Over the years she has been back and forth between Turkey and the U.S.  She received her Master’s Degree in Psychology from Antioch Seattle and now is a Ph.D. Psychologist.  The focus of her work is violence against women and domestic violence, her perspective is cross-cultural, and she is motivated by a deep commitment to social justice.

And, yes she is a pathfinder – on many levels.  Living in Turkey as a single woman can be problematic in itself.  She explained to us that the landlord of her apartment seemed quite relieved when her sons came to visit – he could now place her in a family context.  In a country where it is reported that 80% of all women are supported economically by a man (husband, father), single women are clearly outside the norm.

And in her professional work – she holds a pretty unique perspective.  Working with women who have experienced violence and domestic abuse, she is profoundly committed to helping them develop their own autonomy.  This means not making decisions for them and not telling them what to do – instead helping them to develop the discernment and courage to make their own decisions that are in their best interest.  This is counter-cultural.  In many ways she represents the ideal pathfinder: She is compassionate and she is a systems thinker – and in her work the issues are clearly, as we say, both profoundly personal and completely systemic.  When women do find the courage to seek help – there is no structure to support them in creating a different life.  If they seek help from the police, they are likely to be returned to their husband.  Their birth family may be ambivilant about allowing them back home -or will face strong censure, and perhaps, isolation from the community.  There are few shelters – and even fewer that understand what Leyla is so clear about – that the women must learn to think and make decisions for themselves.

Nevertheless, Leyla continues her work with women themselves, and networks with others who do similar work.  She has developed a training manual for staff that work with violence and domestic abuse – and this guide is based on culturally appropriate approaches.  It is nearing publication and will be a significant contribution to this work.  She also finds deep satisfaction in the young women who are persistent in their own determination to become effective staff to serve this population.

May Leyla’s self-direction, wisdom and persistence be an inspiration to all of us!

In appreciation to each of you for the work you are doing in this world,

Good wishes,  Barbara