In Turkey, nearly 45% of married women have been victims of domestic violence inflicted by their partners. The types of violence vary, and the issue is strikingly evident in the corresponding percentages: 39% of women suffer from physical violence, 15% from sexual violence, and 44% from emotional violence. The percentage for sexual violence may also be imprecise due to a lack of reporting.
The Mother Child Education Foundation is a Turkey-based organization striving to combat domestic violence with the parent not spotlighted in their title – fathers. The “fatherhood program” works in partnership with the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. It facilitates a group of 210 activists as they conduct assemblies strictly for men in schools across six provinces, where discussion-based learning takes place.
The scene is described by a UN Women article as, “a group of men sitting on small wooden chairs, holding a lively discussion. Some have their hands raised, waiting for their turn to speak; others look deep in thought as they take down notes.” Izzet Sengel, a training specialist at ACEV, says, “It is really an experience to see 15 men in a room talking about their wives and children and not football.”
The aim of these meetings is to prevent domestic violence by involving Turkish men as allies in Turkey’s widespread issue. Gender sensitivity and equality are rightfully promoted amongst fathers as they discuss how to improve listening skills and how to manage anger. They also learn about how violence is most often catalyzed by gender stereotypes.
A three-month curriculum allows fathers to share experiences and discuss unfamiliar topics. It may seem like a far-fetched idea that these men can effectively unlearn harmful behavior in just 13 weeks, but ACEV’s work is, in fact, showing results.
Unal Kartal, a group member in Istanbul and a 49-year-old father of three, is very happy with what he has learned from the program, stating, “When I see the change, I think every father should take this course. I was always proud to be a good father, however, now I realize I was too protective. I used to easily get angry before. I learned to control my anger during this course.”
Through the discussions, trainers also work to undermine harmful perceptions of men’s roles within families. By unlearning detrimental gender stereotypes, these men are allowed a different, healthier perspective.
are also available to the wives of the men in the program, offering the women insight on the program’s lessons along with a booklet on national women’s rights action plans, and information on support services for women and girls who find themselves subjected to violence.
At the end of the program, a ceremony is held for the men’s achievements to be recognized by their families and peers. The program’s traction even caught attention on a national level when Turkey’s Ministries of National Education, Family, and Social Affairs began supporting it.
Unal Kartal and his wife approve. “This certificate should be necessary before getting married,” says a smiling Unal. In combatting a national issue, these fathers are leading by example in becoming allies against violence, rather than facilitators or bystanders to it.
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