KEZİBAN KAN
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KEZİBAN KAN

KEZBAN YENGE: A SUCCESS STORY IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
Interviewer: Melike Gül, Senem Yıldırım
Place: Ms. Kan’s workplace / Çakırlar
Date: 20.08.2015

Gallery

Interview


Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Yarbaşçandır village in the Konyaaltı district of Antalya in 1967. My father is a shepherd. My family was engaged in agriculture and sheepherding. I was in fifth grade when I first came to centre of Antalya for a photoshoot. That was also the first time when I saw electricity. I’m fortunate to have lived through those days and I’m glad to have seen those days. The village had no school. We had to walk for an hour to go to school. Everyone was herding animals; there was nothing else to do. There was no one to sell our products. After finishing primary school we continued herding. I was helping my father and my mother. My mother was a very hardworking woman, she would never stop. I was set up for an arranged marriage. They told me that a teacher wanted to marry me. I thought to myself if I was going to marry someone from the village I would remain as a shepherd. I married at the age of 16. A week after our marriage, we moved to Diyarbakır because of my husband’s job.

What was Diyarbakır like in those years?
People were very respectful towards us. We still keep in touch with our friends there. The social structure of Diyarbakir differed from here. Men and women were separated in weddings and other functions. Men would eat first and women would follow afterwards. We don’t have that here.

Was it easy to get used to a different place?
Yes, I quickly adjust to my surroundings.  I immediately socialise with others. Two years later we went to Konya. All the women out there were carpet weaving. I told them I wanted to learn how to weave carpets. They taught me how to weave carpets. I was making money for the first time and with that money we bought furnishings for our home. We stayed in Konya for four years. I wove 8-10 carpets during my time there. Then we got bored, asked for another appointment and moved to Zonguldak. Life there was different. Women worked in the woods. Men were going to the mines and women were doing hard labour. We were making jam from forest berries. People in that place were very eager and ready to learn. Afterwards we returned to Antalya once again. We started greenhouse farming. There is money to be made everywhere, but you miss your own home.

When you return home what else did you do?
We started growing strawberries in the greenhouse. Meanwhile, my third child was born. We gave a number of things to my middle son so he could sell them at the roadside. It worked out well. My son started to bring along a friend. Here we started to sell all of the berries of a greenhouse. I wanted to sell katmer at the roadside. Before us villagers started to sell small stuff. I bought a portable cylinder gas stove in Konya and started to make katmer (filo dough).

What has been the reaction of the people toward you?
People around me said to me not to it, because other might gossip about it. At first we didn’t know how to do this. We didn’t even know that it was called gözleme (a flat pastry dish), we referred to it as katmer. Our customers were the ones who guided us by telling us how to (and not to) proceed. These have occurred over time. We became increasingly ambitious and started getting positive feedback. We wanted a change in our lives. Then other women started to make gözleme. We women have always worked. Gradually over time the number of those who have started to fry gözlemes increased.

How did you start building these facilities?
These were forest lands. They gave us a permit. We were told stay by the roadside, but not cut down any trees. We didn't have any publicity. Our place didn't even have a name. While were contemplating a name, one of our customers said: "What you need to think about? Just call it “Kezban Yenge” (Aunt Kezban)". At that time it was considered strange for a woman to have her own business, let alone name it after herself. I said no, thinking that passers-by would mock us. But my husband went ahead and had a signboard with the inscription “Kezban Yenge” made. That’s how it got its name.

Did your husband support you?
Yes, he was supportive. My husband not only helped me, but also continued teaching. Villagers didn’t consume the produce we sold. We referred to those arrivals as socialites. Hence the current name of “Society Market”. Now it has expanded and it’s not like before. It generates a high level of employment and economic growth for the local population. We are very proud of these accomplishments.

Why do people come here?
They’re coming to find tranquillity. They come to eat natural village products that aren’t available in the city. The vegetables sold here are organic. People are coming for this authenticity. We have our own wood stoves where people can roast their chestnuts. There was a lot of support from our customers. They encouraged us so much. Our customers were our publicists.  Local women developed this sector and later on it also flourished in other cities.

Did the attitude of the villagers change towards you in the aftermath of these developments?
Those people who tried to discourage me from entering this venture have opened their own businesses. They agree with me now. My father was worried for me at first since I was exhausting myself, but today he is very proud of me.

Did your husband’s attitude towards you change?
I don’t know. I’m not aware of it, but it might have. We earn good money and spend it as we please. My husband retains our income, but I can buy what I like. You don’t think about money after a certain time anyway. I’m managing this place. There is one more place that my husband manages. Sometimes the two of us don’t get along together. Another place is looked after by our son.  He chose this trade and my other son decided to study. Nowadays I tell my daughter to continue her education.

What would you have liked to become if you continued with your education?
I never thought about it. I didn’t even daydream about such a possibility as it was out of the question. I'm happy in my current state. I don’t have many expectations.

Do you have any other projects?
Yes I do. I’m thinking of renting a nicer place and turning it into a playground. From time to time when I get tired I say I’ll leave it to my children, but I can’t. I can’t leave it to other people. Sometimes I ask myself if I’m a good wife.  Am I a good manager? Am I a good mother? But none of this matters. It’s impossible to be everything to everyone.

What is the difference between women in Antalya and women in other cities in your opinion?
Women in Antalya are bit more relaxed. When these establishments were opened women became more emancipated in terms of stepping out their comfort zones and modernity. Without these developments women here would be no different than women living in Konya. Now everyone here is working. Women have more economic independence and are better off today than they were before. Women aren’t lazy. They will gladly work, but they aren’t given enough opportunities.

How do you view foreign women?
They are more self-confident. There is a German woman who lives in Antalya. I look up to her. She comes here, but it doesn’t detract her from her lifestyle or from her children. She lives by herself. Despite her age she doesn’t wait at death’s door like our elderly. She has always been an example for me.

Have you thought of becoming a neighbourhood warden?
I considered it for a while. Men here still don’t want women to become successful. Even my husband says to me that I want to stand out. I’m involved in the Chamber of Pasty makers and other professional associations.

Compared to the past did the ratio of girls who continue with their education increase?
Yes, ore girls go to school today. Looking back 20 years ago, this change is very positive. I hope it stays that way. We insist on young girls to get an education. They're going to school, they work, they're buying their own homes. Educated women don’t rely on men. They can earn their own income. Women have to work and become self-reliant. Being a woman doesn’t mean that they solely have to bear children and serve their husbands. Women shouldn’t become dependent on their husbands. 

Can we say that women are now fully liberated?
No, they aren’t. Women aren’t exactly liberated. They can’t do what they like and they aren’t allowed to.

What comes to your mind at the mention of a women's museum?
When you mention museums old historical objects come to my mind, but in a women’s museum I would like to see prominent, successful women and women that serve as an example to others.
 
KEZİBAN KAN