Turkey: Mavi Kalem

Gamze Karadağ (standing, right), a liaison for the Turkish “Our Bodies, Ourselves” project, with members of Mavi Kalem.
Gamze Karadağ (standing, right), coordinator of the Turkish “Our Bodies, Ourselves” project, with members of Mavi Kalem. / Photo courtesy of Mavi Kalem


Bedenim ve Ben (under development)

Translation: My Body and I



Our Bodies, Ourselves Project

Mavi Kalem is exploring publishing options for a Turkish adaptation of Our Bodies, Ourselves. The group is hoping to publish the book in collaboration with Metis, a prestigious publishing company with nationwide distribution and a reputation for successfully introducing writing by and for women to the general public. As they iron out details, Mavi Kalem continues to use social media, including Facebook, to increase awareness and build publicity, and publish excerpts from the manuscript in Zühre, their free monthly magazine on women’s health.

The Turkish adaptation explores the social norms, laws, traditional practices and religious edicts that make it difficult for Turkish women and girls to exercise their rights. To focus on relevant health issues, the editorial team added information on anemia, which is a concern for Turkish women, and modified an early U.S. chapter on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs to include hashish, which is commonly used in the country. A U.S. section on advocating for pregnant women was not adapted, as such organizations/movements do not exist in Turkey.

We want women to say: “I read a book and it changed my life.”
– Mavi Kalem
The OBOS Global Initiative provided technical support, including guidance on fundraising and increased visibility for the Turkish resource. Financial support was provided via donations from OBOS supporters and sub-grants from donors including the World Bank.

Gamze Karadağ, OBOS project coordinator in Turkey, joined Mavi Kalem as an intern in 2004 and became involved in the Turkish adaptation project in 2005. She attended OBOS’s 40th anniversary symposium in 2011 and took part in a panel on the making of Our Bodies, Ourselves, which can be viewed online. She also wrote a blog post describing the challenges and prejudices feminists face in Turkey and what she has learned since working on the adaptation.

Karadağ continues to organize field teams, conduct health trainings for women in local communities, factories and shelters, and contribute to Mavi Kalem’s monthly women’s health magazine, Zühre.

How to Obtain Copies

For more information or to obtain copies upon publication, please contact Gamze Karadağ: gamzekaradag [AT] mavikalem.org.

Community Action & Activism

Demonstrations against DESA, Turkey's luxury leather goods manufacturer and supplier to retailers like Prada and Burberry, demanding improved working and wage conditions.
Demonstrations against DESA, Turkey’s luxury leather goods manufacturer and supplier to retailers like Prada and Burberry, demanding improved working and wage conditions. / Photo courtesy of Mavi Kalem

Mavi Kalem was founded in 2000, following a massive earthquake, by a group of individuals who believe that a spirit of volunteerism and the free flow of information are central to positive social transformation.

The organization brings together different professionals, including doctors, health educators, mental health specialists, psychologists and sociologists, to promote the rights of women and girls through a broad range of outreach activities.

A moderated discussion forum on its website has been a popular collaborative and lobbying tool for health and rights groups. Mavi Kalem is also actively involved in the abortion rights movement.

In 2013, Mavi Kalem organized Women Health Policies Forums in Turkey, a project inspired by Our Bodies Ourselves. The Forums project was designed to assess gaps in policies related to women’s health, as well as to discuss and problem-solve around current regulations and laws.

The organization has also organized a community “consulting room” on health rights for women who are poor and who have low literacy skills, and publishes Zühre, a free monthly health magazine that features excerpts from the book under development. The only magazine published in Turkey that focuses entirely on women’s health, Zühre is distributed via women’s shelters, solidarity centers, and research divisions at universities.

Mavi Kalem members rallying for the health and rights of Turkish women and girls.
Mavi Kalem members rallying for the health and rights of Turkish women and girls. / Photo courtesy of Mavi Kalem

Mavi Kalem has run a number of innovative campaigns, including one that provides young women with badges that say “My body is mine” and a pamphlet outlining their fundamental human rights. Here’s a translation:

I am the one who make my own decisions.
I am entitled to climb a tree, ride bicycle and do whatever sport I want.
I am the one who decide on what I wear.
I have right to access to medical information and health service.
I am the one who decide on my weight.
I am the only one to have a say on my sexuality and fertility.
I have right to live my own sexual identity.
I am entitled to enjoy the public sphere.

Mavi Kalem also advances the education of children and serves as a host and receiving organization for the European Union’s European Voluntary Service program.

Its partners include the Ankara Association for Union and Solidarity of Women, Capa Center for Education and Research on Women’s and Children’s Health, Gazi University-Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine, Women Entrepreneurs Association, Kirk Oruk Women’s Cooperative and Sabanci University.

The organization has actively promoted the Our Bodies, Ourselves adaptation at events and forums, including the Civilian Voices Festival, which brings together NGOs from around the country; sessions with students and NGO representatives at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University; a presentation for 250 NGO representatives at the Women Shelter Assembly in Adana; and interviews with Hayat Television, the news magazine Aktüel, and Dicle News Agency, a primary news source in Turkey’s east and southeast regions.

Gamze Karadag
Gamze Karadağ, project coordinator


Website: http://www.mavikalem.org
Email: Filiz Ayla: filizayla [AT] mavikalem.org / Gamze Karadağ: gamzekaradag [AT] mavikalem.org
Address: Balat Mahallesi Yıldırım Cad. No:24 34087 Fener Fatih –İstanbul, Turkey
Phone: +90-212-5344133
Fax: +90-212-5344190