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Figen Kelemer visits children in the Hatay-Reyhanl€±/Syrian Refugee Camp, Turkey. She listens as they advocate for a children’s park within the camp.

Meet Figen Kelemer, Vice Youth Coordinator for Istanbul-Youth Network Against Child Commercial Sexual Exploitation. She is also a featured blogger for our participation in the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.

Many of the young girls affected by early marriage, trafficking, prostitution and child labor in Turkey come from marginalized groups such as Roma or Syrian refugees. Unfortunately, the government has not prioritized protecting these communities. We lack data on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Turkey. Early marriage is a huge issue, especially because the law has varying definitions for minor, citing 18 years old as the age of adults in some laws, and 15 years old in others. Complicating the issues, CSEC and child pornography are crimes organized by strong, dangerous groups that many human rights defenders fear to challenge.

In this context we are taking action. We launched the Empowerment Campaign for Roma Women in 2012 to respond to the specific needs of this vulnerable community. The objective of the project is to increase the capacity of Roma civil society actors to raise awareness about Roma women’s issues and to advocate for improved policies by developing regional partnerships and networks in and between Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey.

The most innovative aspect of this work is our new approach to work as a network. Through networking we are learning more from our members and partners. 

 In order to fight exploitation of Roma women and girls I work with university students, supporting them to establish two networks of youth leaders (TRY – Turkish Roma Youths and Ģą€�KA – Gypsy Girls Network). We organized trainings and workshops on specific topics such as leadership, gender equality and early marriages. 

Our youth network members create videos and publish them on our social media channels to raise awareness. We use creative methods such as combining advocacy with art. We will be adopting this model to work with Syrian refugees in 2014, as part of a grant program from the Global Freedom Exchange.

We use informal education, creative campaigns and street actions to empower our network of youth leaders to combat forced early marriage, child labor, child trafficking and child pornography in Turkey.

Please like us on our Facebook to learn more about us! We appreciate any support to continue our campaigns.