The Girls Would Work and the Boys Would Play

emineHanimI got to know Emine Hanım six years ago when I gave reading and writing lessons as a volunteer teacher in a course which  prepared by ACEV (Mother and Children Education Foundation).

Emine Hanım was born on 1950 in Mesudiye. There wasn’t a school in their village when she came to the age where she had to go to school.

When the school was built her grandfather said: “Girls don’t go to school!!… Is she going to write letters when she is married? She is not a boy who will join the army and write letters.” and these words ended her education life before it started.

 “I really wanted to learn how to read and write . Everyone at home were reading a book or a newspaper but I was just staring. My husband was reading the newspaper but I was just looking at him. That’s why I really wanted to read.  I couldn’t go anywhere alone, I knew nothing, I took  someone to help me who were usually my children. Now they are gone too, so I’m alone.”

“I used to ask my kids ‘What does it say here?’ and I got angry sometimes when they didn’t answer. But now I can read ,slowly but at least I can, so that’s good.  My husband said “You should go to a course instead of reading this repeatedly” he said ” Don’t stay at home, go to school”. He encouraged me to go school and supported me to come here. I can’t thank him enough. May god give him a long life.

However I believe that his grandfather wouldn’t say the same things if he knew that being educated gives you more skills than just writing letters, that education can change your life. None of his sisters were sent to school but all the boys graduated primary school. With a sad voice he says “My dad carried my brother on his shoulders and made him go to school.” Then he continues “It was unfair for his daughters. They are more caring for their sons but not their daughters, and that’s the problem.” 

“They found girls worthless, they didn’t even care about them.” I have a daughter and four sons. I care more for my daughter than my boys. I made them go to school as much as they could.

Emine made her children go to school, because when she moved to the city she understood the importance of education. However her mother and grandfather didn’t want her to go to school. When I asked why her mother didn’t let her go to school Emine said;

” Why would she want me to go to school; there were children to look after, work to be done and a garden to be taken care of. She realized that I could do most of these things and she stopped letting me go to school. If my mother said “let her go to school” I would go but instead she said “She has to help me at home”. The girls would work and the boys would play. 

“I don’t remember having a childhood . I didn’t do the cleaning at home but I took care of my brothers, I used to go help my father in the garden most of the time; we planted potatoes and we did all the farming, we had an ox. We never had our childhood. When we were fifteen, we got married. We were all the same, the girls were the same.  Nothing much different. The one with a bigger garden worked more, and the one with the smaller garden worked less. Mothers were giving birth to another baby while one is on the crib.”


Thanks to Zeynep Çebi for the translation to English.

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