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Allies against violence: a fatherhood training to end discrimination against women in Turkey
Unal Kurtal, one of the fathers participating at ACEV’s training, with his youngest daughter during a trip organized by the participants of his father’s support group in Turkey in 2012.
Photo courtesy: Mother Child Foundation (ACEV)
In a primary school in Istanbul, a group of men sit on small wooden chairs, holding a lively discussion. Some have their hands raised, waiting for their turn to speak; others look deep in thought as they take down notes.
This is not the first time that the men have occupied the room, and yet their presence continues to raise eyebrows. “It is really an experience to see 15 men in a room talking about their wives and children, and not football”, says Izzet Sengel, a training specialist at the Mother Child Foundation (ACEV), with a smile.
ACEV is a Turkey-based organization that has seen and pursued a promise of positive change in men through their roles as fathers. Its ‘fatherhood programme’, in partnership with the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, currently supports a group of 210 activists as they conduct discussion-based men-only assemblies in schools across six provinces. It aims to prevent domestic violence by involving men as allies in the issue, and promoting gender sensitivity and equity among fathers. Through a three month curriculum of weekly meetings, members share their experiences as fathers and discuss often unfamiliar topics, from how to improve listening skills and manage anger, to the way that violence is often rooted in gender stereotypes.
The approach is an innovative response to a problem that has caused unprecedented damage in wider society.