|Using theatre, sports and poetry workshops, teachers and community leaders educated boys and girls alike and reached the wider community with key messages.|
Çiğdem Yildiz walks on to the stage and talks directly to the audience. “I don’t want just to work on my trousseau. I want to go to school and have my books.” She is only saying what she has told her parents countless times as she watched other children going to school.
In her region of south-eastern Turkey, in the Province of Van, girls are raised to work in the home and prepare for early marriage. They learn to be silent. But tonight that silence is being shattered.
Çiğdem thought her opportunity to learn had long passed. Then in 2000, the local district of Muradiye opened an open primary school designed to give girls who had not completed compulsory primary school another chance. This is one of a network of centres established across five provinces following a successful pilot project initiated with the Turkey Development Foundation, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF.
The centres not only provide schooling but also places to socialize for girls who had rarely had the opportunity to get out of their homes. The girls organize field trips to nearby provinces. In the Muradiye centre, Çiğdem and other students organized a drama club, reached out to boys in the area and together wrote and staged a play called Kardelen, named after a flower that blooms in the mountain snow.
The play has travelled from its community to wider audiences in the provincial capital. Eventually it was featured on regional television and performed twice in the nation’s capital. The play has been seen by children from all around Turkey as well as the Ministers of Education and Culture.
The play helped to transform attitudes about girls, tradition and education. Mostly it has transformed the girls themselves. Before Kardelen they were primary school dropouts; now they are confident young women who want to become teachers, doctors and lawyers.