A market for women only

A market for women only

Wilco van Herpen ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
A market for women only Last weekend I visited a market in İzmir’s Urla district. You might ask me what the importance of this is, but this market was not the kind of typical market we all know. This was a market where woman only sold their fruit, vegetables, marmalades, or other things they had made or grown at home. The initiative was supported by the city council, which offered them a covered place to sell their goods.

The women do not have to pay rent for their stalls. The city council gives them, free of charge, a place where they can sell their goods. The market first opened its doors in March 2012 and since then people from Urla and İzmir have started discovering this nice, cosy place.

It was early in the morning when I arrived in Urla, and I went to the market directly. It was not going to be a “normal” shopping day, but I went to this market because I am working on a project called “Wilco ile pazar pazar AB” (With Wilco from market to market for the European Union). Every week I visit a different market place and talk with the people there. The topic could be children, workers, animals, women, or human rights, and what I want to find out is if the Turkish people are aware of what the European Union - together with the Turkish government – is doing for Turkey and how much the changed laws have really been enforced.

So there I was in front of the huge doors, where the woman have their market. The project’s name is Urla Kadın Üretici Pazarı (Urla Woman-Produced Market), which is a mouthful and impossible to say if your Turkish is not perfect. Even I have problems with pronouncing it, so I think they should choose a better name for this market.

Everything is homemade

When you enter the marketplace everywhere you look you see tables filled with veggies and fruit, lamps, bijouterie, knitted cloth and toys. But there is one condition: everything has to be home made.

You do not find any cheap Chinese things there. For me that is a great thing, because sometimes I get so annoyed by the souvenirs I see here. If I wanted to buy something as a souvenir I would like to see that that product has been made in the country of origin. It gives me more value and at the same time it is much better for the local economy. What am I going to do with a “Nazar Boncuk” (Evil Eye) made of plastic and produced in China? There is a deeper philosophy behind it and therefore it should be made of glass. A “Nazar Boncuk” collects negative energy and the moment that it absorbed all this energy the “Nazar Boncuk” will break – therefore, it has to be made of glass.

When I entered the marketplace my eye was directly drawn to a small poster. The woman was selling jam made of hot peppers. I am not a person that likes sweet food too much, but I love hot peppers, so I was very curious about this jam. The woman gave me a little spoon and I took a little bit of the jam. I tasted it and yes, this was definitely jam. Not too sweet and a nice light peppery flavor. Then, slowly, there was a kind of spicy feeling opening up in my mouth, not burning my mouth but nicely balanced.

This was a really nice jam, especially if you want to surprise your guests with original products when making a special breakfast for them. Emine teyze is the creator of this nice jam but she also produces a jam made of okra, tomato or normal fruit. Two years ago she got the idea of making a jam from spicy peppers, and it took her three attempts to arrive at the final recipe. This year, during the Hudre festival in Urla, she took part in a cooking competition with the pepper jam and she won the third price.

Across her stall I see an enlightening place. All over Turkey I have seen these kind of lamps but the lamps, made of pumpkin, that I can see here are a particular piece of decorative art. Generally, we see such lamps with a lot of holes drilled in them, through which the light is projected onto the wall or the ceiling. But these pumpkins are also milled. The woman and her husband make a design in the pumpkin and then drill the holes in it. After that they start milling the pumpkin and the result is a lamp that gives a very romantic, soft glowing light. So far they have made over a hundred lamps and slowly the work is picking up. I could not resist the urge to buy one, so shortly after I was the proud owner of a unique pumpkin lamp.

During the time I spend on the market I spoke with numerous women. All of them had their own thoughts about women’s rights. Some of the woman thought things had improved, but there were quite a number who told me that the situation had got worse. The law has changed, but in daily life the women do not notice any of the changes.

The biggest complaints were about education and about violence towards woman. There is still a long way to go but slowly, with the help of NGOs in Turkey, some of the women’s rights have changed. So I liked the initiative in Urla; it gives women a chance to become financially independent or helps to support the family.

Things are definitely changing in Turkey, but for some people this change is too slow.