Women for Women's Human Rights, Turkey

turkey_thumb.jpg“Women for Women’s Human Rights has [made a] great contribution to the women’s movement in Turkey. Three years ago, they organized women’s groups to change the Turkish Civil and Family Code, and they got the government to change the laws.” — Nurcan Baysal, GFW Advisor

Around the world, women are uniting to challenge unequal gender relations embedded in tradition, religion and law. For 20 years, the Global Fund has supported groups working to advance women’s freedom and their status as equal citizens by organizing, building coalitions, changing laws and advancing transformative agendas to improve their lives, their children’s futures and our world.

In 1993, Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) formed to rally for women’s equal participation in Turkish society. WWHR empowers women and women’s organizations, especially at the grassroots level, by giving them tools and strategies to confront structures of inequality. The group documents and disseminates information on women’s human rights, strengthens networks of women’s groups across Islamic countries and advances policy and legal change.

The group started its work by doing research on women’s rights in Turkey and violence against women in Ankara, Istanbul, eastern and southeastern Anatolia. “During the course of this research, we came across the fact that women are unaware of the rights granted to them by the law. Another fact was that there was almost no women’s grassroots organizing and networking other than those in the big cities of Turkey,” explains the group.

To change this, WWHR dedicated itself to training Turkish women in legal literacy and reforming civil and penal codes to advance women’s rights in Turkey and internationally. WWHR organizing has led to significant revisions to the Turkish Penal Code, including criminalizing marital rape, increasing the severity of punishment for sex crimes and “honor” killings, and abolishing discrimination between married and single or virgin and non-virgin women. They co-created and currently coordinate the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim societies.

Since 1995, WWHR has educated over 4,500 women and girls on their legal and economic rights through community centers in 36 Turkish provinces. One example of their effectiveness was revealed during an external evaluation. After participating in WWHR programs, 63 percent of the women who faced violence before the training were able to stop it.

turkey3.jpgIn 2007, Pinar Ilkkaracan of WWHR and the Coalition shared the prestigious $500,000 Peter and Patricia Gruber Women’s Rights Prize for groundbreaking leadership in reforming Turkish laws and advancing the rights of Muslim women.

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