What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
Unemployment, poverty, the lack in investment, education and economic recession are the main problems in Mardin with app. population of 700.000. Unemployment rates are quite high; at least 1 person in 41% of the households is unemployed. And app. 40% of the population is living under the poverty limit. As a result, women are most vulnerable groups against these problems. Women’s lack in vocational skills prevents their participation into the labor market and this situation results with high poverty and social exclusion risks for women.
On the other hand there are many activities aiming to empower women economically. However; these activities are mostly (handicraft) skills trainings and don’t include new business areas, sectors including technology. So these are far from providing a sustainable support for women.
In order to create effective solutions like supporting women in participating into the economic life actively or increasing their entrepreneurship capacity; the activities should have a need-oriented approach for women. Especially in a city like Mardin where women can hardly take part in social and economic life, there is a need for new and successful business models.
Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.
Berna, a native of Mardin and of Arabic heritage, is an extraordinary example of an entrepreneur who refused to be satisfied by the status quo. As early as 18, her strong interest in social concerns led her to risk taking unaccompanied walks to neighboring communities. She has always felt a deep sense of responsibility for the community where she was born, and this feeling fuels her dedication.
Whereas the majority of young women her age and with her level of education were leaving the city for better economic conditions or to get married, Berna stayed in Mardin to continue her education at a vocational school, and she worked part time as a field coordinator for an Istanbul-based CO.
She began taking walks to Kurdish Mardin more frequently in her late teens and early twenties. Her parents knew where she was going when they saw her put on a particular pair of boots she wore for those treks, but unlike more conservative families in Mardin, Berna’s parents were uncommonly accepting about her choices. Her passion was evident early on.
Because of her walks and the many observations and conversations she had, Berna was increasingly convinced that lasting change would have to begin locally, driven by women and for women. Her ability to persuade others to support her initiative—from local authorities to academics to business executives—is evidence of her unyielding will. Today, Berna is a local heroine in Mardin.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
If through another source, please provide the information