Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007
Silk Road Women's Cooperative


This profile was prepared when Berna Yagci was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
In a strife-ridden area of southeast Turkey, Berna has designed a new community space for women. Beginning with a physical gathering place which is also a day care center, Berna provides women with literacy education, vocational training, and concrete ways to earn an income. Her work gives women an unprecedented opportunity to become agents of change both in their own lives and in the fabric of their communities. Nothing could be more important in this part of Turkey, where citizen action is desperately needed.
Berna’s community centers for women are the first development initiatives led by a Mardin woman. She negotiated for municipal space to be designated only for women and transformed it and other similar spaces into places of learning, training, and income generation. Participating women are empowered to demand their rights and those of their children. They are more capable of negotiating with local officials about matters that affect their families and communities, and having an income provides them with new freedoms. For Berna, these centers are vehicles to break down stereotypes about women’s capacity to contribute to society.
With the initial success of Berna’s first center, she opened another outside Mardin. Her model has generated interest in similarly poor cities of southeast Turkey, and neighboring Syria. Her goal is to expand a straightforward but powerful model that gives women the ability and confidence to create change, both in Turkey and nearby Arab nations.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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