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Capabilities based gender justice approach: women teachers of Turkey as key to human development

I. Introduction and context Turkey represents a paradigm example of a country with many dualism and dilemmas in its history due to its unique geographical, strategical and cultural position in the world, making it to reside between two worlds: Europe and Asia. This bridge offers coexistence of many different ethnic, religion and cultural values and includes the values of Western and Eastern cultures and political structures. For instance, the west of Turkey has always been more European and modern and the east has generally been more conservative and traditional. At the same time, secular democratic constitution of Turkey with a predominantly Muslim population positioned Turkey to intertwine with the issues of gender, identity, and religion (Cherry, 2003). Within the context of cultural blend, Turkish women arguably are located at the crossroads between taking up modernity and being under the oppression of traditions, and culture. This duality means a lot to a woman rather than a man since it is usually the women who became more vulnerable by the cultural, social and traditional values, restrictions and impositions (Gole, 1997). The question of woman is still an unresolved problem in Turkey and the emancipation of woman continues to be an uncompleted revolution since the Republican times. Women and men are completely equal in every aspect of the life in Turkish law. There are no laws or clauses in Turkish constitution that place women as secondary or inferior citizens in relation to men but still, culturally women in Turkey still remain secondary to men. They still do not sufficiently exercise their legal rights, the division of labour in the private sphere does not favour women and they are less represented in parliament, managerial positions and decision making mechanisms. These persistent and long standing unjust practices in womens lives cannot be explained without understanding the gendered nature of the relationship between society, religion, individuals, and the state. Taking this case of women in Turkey, this research represents a step towards filling the vacuum in the understanding of women teachers experiences, lives, opportunities and freedoms in Turkey and aims to shed light on the problems of justice and equality regarding western women teachers as societal actors and agents of change. Looking at the lives of three different generations of women teachers of Turkey from its establishment as a republic in 1923 through to contemporary times, this thesis takes us a long historical journey of selected lives to consider what it means to be a woman
and a woman teacher in Turkish context.

III. Methodology This research proposes that one of the best ways we can understand the complexity of what the journey of being woman teachers who work for social change in a society is feminist research. Within the framework of Feminist methdology and life history interviews has ben carried out with 15 women who belong to three different generations and era in Turkey.

Republican women Amazon women Post-Modern Women

3 participants Born between 1925 and 1936 6 participants Born between 19551964 6 participants Born between 19751985

IV. Conceptual framework The research draws its conceptual framework from a possible justice model based on Martha Nussbaums capability approach, identity, gender and agency. In doing so, it uses capabilities as an opportunity and advocacy cause for more egalitarian civil society, presents what is the valued functioning and capabilities in womens lives to construct a gender-just society, provides an analysis of reproduction of gender order and inequalities, reframes identity construction, questions justice, agency and well being in women s lives and conceptualizes all these around the thread of the human development approach of capabilities and a feminist perspective.

Capabilities Women s lives gender



II. Research Questions 1. How do women interpret their education experiences (not only formal education but also education received from family and society)? 2. To what extent do gender, religions, social norms and the state influenced and shaped their educational and professional lives, social opportunities, and process and progress in their actual and adapted preferences from the Republican Era to contemporary times? 3. How do gender relations, gendered norms, and social constructs affect their perspectives on education, specifically the way they perceive themselves as women teachers (E.g. being Turkish, Muslim, female) in Turkish society at different times? 4. To what extent women were capable of initiating a social change and being the active agents of building social justice?

V. Conclusions The research argues that building on the relation between freedom and equality as determined by the capability approach, womens lives are shaped by the predominant norms reflecting the gender order which subjugates women through discourses on honour, shame, neighbourhood pressure. Additionally patriarchy, tradition, and economic structures also form a systematic subordination on women along with the religion of Islam which gives men a powerful legitimacy to suppress women. In-depth analysis of life histories also demonstrates the capability formation is dynamic, sometimes being expressed and sometimes being restricted at different historical era and at different times in womens lives. Thus, their lives capabilities approach supplies a good basic of thinking womens lives in relation to mens, indicate a change and progress of the opportunities offered to women from republican to contemporary generation and call for an urgent solution of justice to womens lives in Turkey.

Firdevs Melis Cin University of Nottingham