In the words of Fatma Yumuşak: “I found the strength within myself to start over”
31 July 2023
Fatma's story after the earthquake
Born and raised in the village of Madenboyu in Antakya, southern Türkiye, 43-year-old Fatma Yumuşak had been running a family market for the past 18 years. When the earthquakes struck on 6 February, she had to leave not only her home but also her market. As time passed, she decided to continue working by building a ‘tent store’ to make a living. UN Women Türkiye met her while conducting a field visit to the earthquake-affected region to gain deeper insights into the current situation and needs of women and girls affected by the disaster.
I have been married for 27 years. We are blessed with four children: three sons and one daughter. Our eldest is now 24 years old, and our daughter is 13. We started our market 18 years ago.
It is not easy to run a market. I worked weekdays and weekends, day and night, through my pregnancies, and on days that I was sick. The market became a lifeline for us, providing a means to survive and support our family. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment as I watched my children grow, providing them with the education they deserved. It was not an easy task, but through perseverance and the income generated from the market, we managed to educate our children, buy a house, and even see them get married. This achievement brings me great joy.
Education has always been important to me, as I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school when I was young. I have encouraged all my children to pursue their dreams through learning, and particularly urged my daughter to study. She aspires to become a teacher and I couldn’t be prouder. I often tell her to study hard, to stand on her own feet, and to never rely on anyone else. She is the embodiment of our hopes and dreams for a future where gender equality is a reality.
Life was challenging at times, but we were managing until that fateful night on 6 February, the night of the earthquake. It was my sister’s birthday and we had returned home around midnight. I vividly remember waking up the moment the tremors began. Fear gripped me and I was unable to wake anyone up. Initially, I thought it would pass quickly, as earthquakes sometimes do. But it only grew stronger, intensifying with each passing moment. Our belongings started falling, the kitchen erupted in noises, and the distinct sound of the earthquake filled our ears.
We lived on the top floor of a three-story building and during the second earthquake, we huddled on the ground, holding onto one another. Shortly after the earthquakes stopped, we went downstairs to go outside. My husband attempted to open the front door of the building, but it was stuck. Water had flooded the entrance due to burst pipes. With nothing but our slippers on, we stepped outside into the unknown. That night, we sought shelter in our car and it took us a week before we could move into a tent. For days, we ventured to streets and parks to meet our basic needs, struggling to find water and maintain proper hygiene. It was a difficult time for all of us.
But adversity breeds resilience, and it was during these difficult times that I found the strength within myself to start over. Determined not to let our circumstances define us, I opened a tent market, selling the goods that were not damaged in our market. It feels good to get back on my own feet and start working again.
The path ahead for me and my family remains uncertain, but hope prevails within my heart. I dream of returning to my neighbourhood, reopening my market and contributing to its revival. If that doesn’t happen, my husband and I will explore other avenues for our livelihood. I firmly believe in the power of education, especially for young girls like my daughter. I always have and always will encourage her to pursue her dreams and to be self-reliant. Together, we will face the challenges that lie ahead, and with resilience and determination, we will overcome these difficult times.”
UN Women Türkiye is actively working on the ground against the devastating impacts of the earthquake on women and girls in coordination with public authorities, civil society and UN agencies.
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women