Bahar Aldanmaz, Local Pathways Fellow (Turkey, Istanbul), UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network - Youth Initiative

As a young Turkish woman, I’ve been growing up with the idea that “I have to work hard”, “I have to keep working no matter what”, always asking for more in order to be able to ‘achieve’. I was even judged by many people for being “too-feminist” and even “obsessive”. Well, maybe I should agree that I am. I am a feminist. That’s how I started my presentation at the 9th World Urban Forum, Kuala Lumpur. The best part of it was, I have never felt judged or criticized for saying this and even appreciated by some. I don’t know how to find the right words to describe how I felt after I presented my passion at the World Urban Forum. Thank you for this feeling, Local Pathways Team!

If you do consider applying for the Local Pathways Fellowship, please continue reading. I can feel your heart and how you feel about social change. I know how much you have done and how much you want to do more. This fellowship is great for a person, who has been working for social change ‘alone’ (I know you are) and need a pat on the back. The Local Pathways Fellowship, helped me to recognize that I do not need to take big steps for social change, but rather small steps each and every day. It will first guide you to turn your flowing ideas into something concrete and then to create a network for making it real.

Did I make it real? I think I did. I sent an email to İlayda Eskitaşçıoğlu, who has just started an initiative called “We Need to Talk”. She has done amazing work and wanted to continue. I wrote her and said, “can I be of help?”. We met on Skype, and we knew that this is going to happen. We both were so passionate…and we did!

We aim to empower rural women in Turkey through providing them access to sanitary materials and to destroy the stigma around menstruation. Our focus is on three vulnerable groups: pre-teens who are going to village schools, female seasonal agricultural workers, and Syrian refugees. Research shows that a majority of these groups have no access to clean and safe sanitary products, or to a clean and private space in which to change menstrual cloths or pads and to wash. Many of them are not properly informed about menstrual hygiene. A package of sanitary pads, even the cheapest kind, is far too expensive for many. Plus, the stigma and shame culture built around menstruation make it harder to talk about it.

That is why we had to take action. We say, "we need to talk".

We equip rural women and girls with sanitary materials that could last for a harvest season with the cloth bags we prepare for them. We also inform them about menstruation, the importance of menstrual hygiene and give them simple tips and measures to prevent infections. Most importantly, we try to build a safe space where we can freely talk about menstruation. Periods are nothing to be ashamed of. It is a perfectly normal part of womanhood. They are harsh for many of us, yet there are thousands of women out there who have to deal with their periods while at the same time working and living under very harsh conditions. This is how we try to make their lives easier at least a bit.

Access to sanitary materials is a human right. It is not only about hygiene, but also about dignity. And every woman deserves dignity.

You can use the links below for the videos of previous fieldwork and detailed information.

We Need to Talk/General: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lWt3XgDq0U

Ankara Fieldwork: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFMxfmrSUAg

Adana Fieldwork: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFsVQX-6AsI

  Bahar Aldanmaz

Bahar Aldanmaz