• Olga Borzenkova | Communications Officer

“We cannot access things that we used to have access to. Our living space is limited, and we have no privacy. I feel worn out both physically and psychologically. I want to cry, but I have to stand up for my family”. 

In the wake of life-altering earthquakes in Türkiye's Malatya Province, communities found themselves having to rebuild not only physical structures, but also  the social fabric of their lives.  

For most of the past ten months, many of Malatya’s residents have called a temporary settlement 'home'– a space defined by resilience and, at times, silent struggles. Particularly vulnerable are women and girls who face challenging living conditions and thus may be exposed to increased risks of gender-based violence (GBV), often lacking awareness of the phenomenon or how to report it.  

The number of reported gender-based violence cases in Malatya has surged after the earthquake, relay local authorities, with likely more cases going unreported. 

During these 16 Days of Activism Against GBV, Gizem*, a housewife and mother of four, reflects on this challenge.  at an awareness raising session, organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Turkish Psychologists Association, and Purple Campus, for 22 women at a container city.

Women participating in a gender-based violence awareness raising activity in Malatya Province. Photos: IOM/Ahmet Abdulhamit

At the session, thematic experts covered various topics – understanding the phenomenon of GBV, learning to identify risks and signs, and learning about reporting mechanisms available. 

 “I don’t have a full education due to existing traditions where I come from, but I want to educate my children,” shares Gizem, emphasizing the need for educational opportunities for women. “This event is important, as we can bring about social change by educating ourselves. This is not only possible by going to school, but also by reading, traveling, and getting to know new people. Socializing and getting together with other women is very important.” 

Meltem*, another participant, echoes Gizem's sentiments. Highlighting the impact of societal stereotypes on women, she proclaims: “If we improve ourselves as a society, we can say, ‘No, you are an individual. You can stand on your own, and you are not a prisoner to anything’.  Then, you can also explain this to your children. We need to raise our children this way. We can achieve social change by reading, researching, and educating ourselves.” 

The event, made possible through the support of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), served as a vital platform for women to speak up and find solidarity in a home with limited privacy for women. 

23 earthquake-affected women came together to learn about gender-based violence. Photo: IOM/Ahmet Abdulhamit

Cansu Gozukara, IOM Türkiye’s Senior Protection Assistant based in Malatya, emphasizes IOM's continued commitment to promoting the rights of women and girls. “We are planning to conduct similar activities in different container cities and informal areas. We are trying to reach more women and hear more women’s voices.” 

 The event is the product of collaboration between protection teams and the Temporary Settlement Support (TSS) Sector, which is responsible for engaging and informing communities, identifying needs and topics for discussion and helping with immediate referrals if needed. 

Over the course of the 16 Days of Activism, IOM, through its protection teams organized nearly 40 activities to raise awareness on GBV in 11 provinces, including earthquake-affected Adiyaman, Hatay, and Malatya. 

As the women in Malatya learned to courageously break their silence against GBV, the event became an avenue for empowerment. . 

“This event was very useful for me. I think it should continue. Women need to be aware, and they need to know where to go when they face any violence. I didn't know this before, but I learned,” concludes Meltem. 

*The names of women mentioned in this story have been changed to protect their privacy. 

Written by Olga Borzenkova, Communications Officer