Ayse Nur Gedik
Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women
Women’s advocate Ayse Nur Gedik first decided to stand up against domestic violence when she could no longer bear to hear the quiet cries of her next door neighbor being abused by her husband, a well-known businessman.
“I had no idea what I was going to do,” Ayse recalls of that night. “I cried at home, and she cried at her house. The next morning, I knocked on her door, you know, just to ask for sugar or some flour, and say, ‘I’m at home if you need anything.’ She said, ‘No, I broke my nose when a suitcase fell down.’”
A Turkish businesswoman with over 20 years of international experience, Ayse wasn’t about to let her lack of familiarity with human rights work stop her from doing something to help women like her neighbor. She promptly got involved with KAMER (“Women’s Center”), a local women’s non-profit organization dedicated to creating social change and ending violence against women, an issue that is both rampant and widely accepted in Turkey. Ayse relied on her professional knowledge of money management and business growth to support an economic livelihoods program for survivors of domestic violence.
KAMER’s Entrepreneurship Program trains women survivors of abuse who have applied for emergency aid to create and market products, such as homemade soaps and environmentally friendly handbags. Thanks to Ayse, their linen-lined net bags are now sold in the Museum of Modern Art gift shop in New York City.
“This buys them economic freedom,” says Ayse. “It’s a huge first step in helping them take their future into their own hands. Selling 100 knit bags doesn’t mean much, but if you think about the five women with 15 kids behind them, it’s a big deal.”
In 2009, Vital Voices invited Ayse to participate in the Eleanor Roosevelt Courage to Lead Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Ayse engaged other Turkish delegates in an enriching conversation about efforts to combat human trafficking.
“Living in a country like Turkey, we all experience violence somehow, as citizens,” admits Ayse. “It’s not only gender-based, it’s military-based, as well. It’s a very politicized country. After facing violence for a while, it’s just so normal. It becomes so normal.”
In May 2011, as part of Vital Voices’ Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, Vital Voices invited Ayse to a two-week International NGO Mentoring Program, in Washington, D.C., New York and Arizona, with nine other women leaders on the forefront of the violence against women movement. Among the highlights were peer-to-peer exchange, site visits with local NGOs, and meetings with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and senior government officials at the State Department’s Offices on Global Women’s Issues and on Monitoring & Combating Trafficking in Persons.
Ayse believes the best way to combat domestic abuse in Turkey is to educate the young women in schools and colleges. Her vision is a globally-inspired, all-inclusive curriculum that raises awareness of gender issues and fosters social responsibility.
The task that lies ahead of her is challenging, but she is not fazed. “You want a better future? Imagine a better future,” she says. “That’s what we’re all looking for. Better than our parents, maybe, better than today. We have the freedom to choose what we want to do.”