Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
South Eastern Anatolia has been marked by political turbulence and armed conflict between Turkish security forces and armed Kurdish groups since the early 1980s, which has led to the displacement of over 1 million people. Many of those fleeing their villages settled in the nearby provincial cities such as Diyarbakir, creating their own settlements on the outskirts. Nearly two decades after the end of high-intensity armed conflict, communities continue to live in the ghettos marked by extreme poverty, lack of services and incidences of violence.
Most families have six to seven children and are unable to adequately care for them or to send them to school, leaving children on the streets and open to all kinds of exploitation. Moreover, families tend to see their children as an economic asset just as in the rural culture where they come from, causing children to also work on the streets and carry the burden of their families’ poverty. As a result, most children do not make it past primary school, growing up running wild or working in Diyarbakır streets. Without any outlets to express themselves or cope with the violence they experience at home, schools or the streets, children easily get politicized and seek release in Diyarbakır’s vibrant, yet often violent street-protests. Throwing stones at the police has become a signature act of the children of Diyarbakır, resulting in many children facing disproportionate penalties such as imprisonment for 23 years or more.
Under these circumstances, children continue to carry the burden of social, political and armed conflict in the region from the region’s past into the future of the country, when they are key to breaking the vicious cycles of poverty and violence in the society. Current government efforts (be it the Kurdish local government or the Turkish central government) fail to address the root causes of the problem, because they prioritize ending the armed conflict (which is symptomatic of deeper problems) and keeping their voter bases happy. Interventions of large NGOs from other parts of the country lack locality, depth and continuity, as they are usually short-term and one-off workshops, imported from the more developed regions of the country, failing to acknowledge local dynamics.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Azize’s commitment to understanding the challenges street children face, her insights into their lives and her determination to develop a community-based, local and in-depth approach to remedy and empower children have helped her create a model that monitors, protects and supports children and their families to break the cycles of poverty and violence they face.
Azize and ÇAÇA establish a safe haven for children, free from all violence and discrimination they face at home, school or on the street. Their center acts as a home to a series of programs they design and implement to encourage the development of important life skills in the children. These programs include art workshops to foster creativity, as well as child to child, and youth to child programs to foster social skills such as empathy and communication without violence. All based on local customs, materials available in the ghettos and delivered by local youth from the local university, the programs are not only sustainable but also effective, in that they are familiar and easily accepted by the children.
Realizing that children constitute a whole with their families and the larger community, ÇAÇA also supports the families through household visits where they monitor and mentor them on risks faced by their children. Keeping a directory of the needs in the children’s families and the community, ÇAÇA brings in other civil society organizations and government agencies and follows the processes closely to ensure the needs are met. ÇAÇA also shares its experience and know-how to have more effective and better informed children’s policies and programs in the region.
ÇAÇA believes that revealing the actual potentials of the children constitutes an important factor towards the solution of all problems experienced in the post-conflict environment. Having reaching over 1500 children and 200 families annually, ÇAÇA’s efforts have been instrumental in diminishing the number of street children in Diyarbakır by half in the past five years, which gives them courage as they plan to expand to other cities in the region.