It has been said that people get along until an outside force tells them otherwise. For centuries, people have lived on this land side by side, getting along well enough for the most part. In Ayvalik, there are different ethnic groups who live in the same neighbourhood and yet in our workshop, there are only Turkish women. Or at least there were only Turkish women until 2 years ago, when we had a few women who had moved here with their families, forced to leave their homes in the Southeast due to terrorism, the threat of the military, for economic opportunities -any or all of the above – came in to work with us.
Most of the Kurdish men in town are involved in construction; most of the Kurdish women are involved in keeping and feeding the house and raising the children. They are strong women in their own communities; it takes extra strength to come to us. So whenever a woman from the Southeast comes into the workshop, we are quite pleased and do what we can to keep them there.
We haven’t done so well. Granted, there are many reasons why any of the women who have started with us no longer continue; for these women, it is too far of a leap out of their norms to work for pay. There is one who has stayed with us however, and we are doing what we can to facilitate her continued involvement. We’ll never know the full story of how she left her child first behind with her first husbands’ family, nor how she came to be the unofficial second wife of the man who is the father of her other two sons. What we do know is that she insisted that ‘her man’ make a different floor for her and her children so they wouldn’t always have to interact with Wife #1. We know that things came to a head as she had enough of his abuse, left, asking us for bus money so she could go back to her family until he met her demands. After several months, he went to bring her back, having built a new floor on their home for her and her children, where he spends every other night with them.
As ‘her man’ often visits the tea house across from our workshop, it would be difficult for her to come in without his knowledge. We aren’t really sure what he does for a living; we do know that this woman wants a bit of her own money, and a bit of being part of a different group, a group that listens to her, that lets and encourages her to grow, that is impressed with her efforts and lets her know as much.
She comes in once a week, usually on market day, as she can slip in easier, with the general increased hustle and bustle on Thursdays. Still, she was sneaking in, trying to make sure she wasn’t seen, as if that were really possible. We were a bit worried for her and for others, as ‘her man’ would not like the fact that she was doing something so independent, that he was not able to financially support both women and their collective 5 children.
Whether it is true or not we are not sure, but she says she finally told him she works with us, and to her – and our surprise – he was supportive, saying ‘that’s a good place.’ Perhaps he knows that she is driven, as strong as she is beautiful. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that she has found a way to continue to be part of us, that she is continuing to grow to heights she aims for.
And we know that more people than any of us will ever know are aware of her actions, of her bravery, of her efforts. And that she is, at least seemingly so, supported by ‘her man.’
Another amazing woman in the life of the garbage ladies.