|This project is dedicated to my family...
The transformation from the theocratic government of the Ottoman Empire, where women's rights were limited, to the modern Turkish Republic where men and women have equal rights was not an easy process and could only be achieved through revolution. Turkey, in the midst of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and surrounded by Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece, is uniquely situated between Eastern and Western cultures. This exposure and unique mixture of cultures has had a major effect on the evolution and development of Turkish culture. Although the face of the society is turned towards western culture and many aspects of contemporary Turkish culture is imported, and women gained these rights and modern female role models, the eastern traditions, family structure and norms of Turkish society were embedded in the culture and the majority of the population still has strong ties to its traditions. The conflict between East and West is evident in the challenges Turkey faces in adjusting to a Western or modern lifestyle. In rural areas and poorer parts of the cities the influence of traditions and patriarchal order can be strongly observed. Today, Turkey has the youngest population in Europe. And, in my opinion, because this structure involves conflicts and the Turkish educational system values memorizing and answering questions rather than posing questions or debating. it is the young people, in particular, are trapped in a suppressing culture.
The year 1926 marks the time when Turkish women gained rights under the Turkish Civil Code, followed by other laws, including the right to vote and to hold office in the Turkish Parliament. As a response to the changes in society, culture, politics and the economy since 1926, the Turkish Civil Code has evolved and most recently addressed the issues of women's rights and human rights. In 2002, Turkey revised its 75-year-old Civil Code, in part to demonstrate its willingness to be a part of a more contemporary, civilized world, to create closer ties to the European Union and forward the process of modernization. These revisions contain improvements specifically in the areas of women's rights and human rights. The law is said to be the transformer of the society. But theory and practice do not always go together hand in hand, you need to change the mindset of people. By emphasizing the continuity of the traditionalism in Turkey in their books, Ömer Çaha and Şirin Tekeli state the reality of Turkish woman Turkish academician Leyla Pervizat writes
People are capable of changing the laws but not always as successful at changing their minds. Feminists have gained a certain amount of ground in extending individual freedoms and rights of women. Now the effort needs to be made to transform the social mindset of our people.
Specifically addressing women's issues, Mehmet Hekimoğlu, another Turkish writer states
One of the social issues confronting women globally is the mental siege that is formed by their lack of enough knowledge and consciousness to solve their problems. A woman who doesn't carry a fear of the future, who has learned to think freely, who is aware of her problems, and capable of solving them independently with the knowledge and talent can't be forced to do anything.
Within Turkey this siege still exists.
The HOME TRUTHS project is a public service campaign consisting of multiple components aiming to create awareness of, and inspire debate about, the revisions and improvements in the Turkish civil code specifically relating to the rights granted to women through curiosity, humor, and interactivity. It is also an investigation of how interactivity and participatory narrative in design can be utilized in the public space to create awareness and how the prejudices about the social or activist campaigns being agitative or didactic in their nature, preventing audience to receive the message an information in them, can be torn down by using certain design strategies. It’s an exploration of the visual means of using gender differences to demonstrate and reconstruct a traditional way of seeing in a graphic design campaign.
The HOME TRUTHS (EV GERCEKLERI) project takes its name from an article published in the Turkish newspaper Radikal written by A. Kadıoglu. Within the article (referring to the book Home Truths: A Novella by David Lodge) the concept of home truths is described as "somebody's secret weakness which hurts and embarrasses when being told outside; the fears, sadness, and desires that are hidden from the outside world but revealed only to the people within the house." There is a tension between what's happening inside "our house" (Turkey) in terms of social life, culture, family affairs and what's being revealed outside.
I defined my audience as male and female, between the ages of 14-40, the most active group in education, economy and social life of Turkey. Some demographics about my audience helped me to decide on the content and mediums to use in my project. Taking into consideration my other design for social good projects such as “The Map Awareness” and research, I’ve decided my project should be accessible and affordable, easily reproducible, interactive, and narrative. To select channels, I looked at some everyday life objects or mediums that can be found in my target audience's environment.
I asked myself how I can transform them into message-conveying, participatory objects? Make the whole campaign self-managing, participatory where input, involvement of people are highly valued? Low-tech, more image-oriented than text-oriented? Pervasive, personal, persuasive, trustworthy, practical, profitable maybe at some point (so the potential sponsors might consider it in the long run) and subversive? Because "Educationalists believe that relaxation leads to learning" so the project should be unthreatening, approachable and enjoyable (Qtd. In Mira B. Aghi, Involving People, Evolving Behavior, pg. 68). I do not want my project to be only agitation where so many questions are posed but no solid direction is pointed or solution is suggested.
Since narrative is an effective way to reach public I asked myself how, if at all, can graphic design use narrative techniques to reach the audience more effectively in the public space in Turkey? First, I had to look at my culture and the most common or popular narration in Turkey such as myths & tales, songs, literature, photo novels, melodramas (movies, TV series, music videos, commercials), newspapers, news channels, etc. I had studied the influence and significance of design on a society and culture in my previous thesis work at Bilkent University, Turkey on Turkish Melodrama Posters and observed the impact of the representation of the movie narrative on printed medium (the poster) creating another level of narrative. The movies created their own cultural significance and character stereotypes and are reflected in the posters. They imposed the story of the movie by the relationship of the elements and characters to each other on the poster. The composition, the posture, the type all transmit certain messages. Narrative is a composition intended to tell a story. It's striking in appearance of affect. Much of design does in fact make use of narrative as a communication strategy.
The narrative has historically been used to communicate ideas, lessons, and examples to educate the intended audience. Examples are found worldwide and cut through place and time. While I was doing my internship in Africa as a designer for UNICEF, I observed their use of stories to inform the public about life and death issues and strangely enough those issues. UNICEF has had success in employing narrative strategies in their educational material to reach people of different cultures. For example, the Sara communication initiative for Africa and Meena communication initiative for Asia, are effective in promoting the status of girls and helping them develop their life skills. "Educating through entertaining adventure, drama and comedy... related through a range of media, including animated film, radio, comic and story books, songs, puppets, and posters" (Qtd. In Aghi, pg. 148). The two main characters for both initiatives represent a dynamic role model grounded in an extensive process of formative research to ensure that the representation of the girls' lives and their demonstration of life skills are credible and acceptable. "... detailed research has been necessary to establish the nature and degree to which girl's assertiveness and critical thinking skills can be enhanced before provoking a backlash of resistance in societies where girls are expected to be submissive" ” (Aghi, pg. 149). Traditional and folk media is the most appropriate since it is culturally and socially easily received, entertaining, easily followed and understood. It involves the use of indigenous knowledge. But it has the danger of corruption of the classical forms of folkloric or religious tales. Narrative can be counted as a traditional media. Nevertheless many different shapes make it easily accepted universally. A benefit is that it's not strictly limited by rules like other traditional forms. It can be a theater play, soap opera, reality show, or music video, radio show, movie, song, game, cartoons, novels, etc. There are two examples from Tanzania and Mozambique which are demonstrative. Four years of a government radio soap opera in Tanzania called "Let's Go With the Times" involved a promiscuous truck driver who developed AIDS. In polls, 92% of listeners said they took some action related to family planning as a result of the program, and it became the focus of a national initiative on reproductive health. A government sex-education drama in Mozambique about a family changed by HIV-AIDS has been performed many times by local theater groups, and was so well received it became a radio novella in ten languages, a photo novella, a music video, and a cassette of ten songs by popular Mozambique musicians (Jennifer Catino, Meeting the Cairo Challenge, pg. 74-79).
It is extremely critical to use the right mediums to reach your audience. The right medium differs depending on the audience, the time, the place, and the context. One of the examples about the choice of the right medium is from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe): Three Red Cross workers, one African and two Swiss were killed in a clearly marked Red-Cross vehicle in 1978 at the time of huge conflict between dissident black groups and the minority white government. It was assumed the attack was a result of ignorance of the Red Cross's role in the conflict. The only practical solution was an information and education campaign. The media channels to reach the fighters were limited and a group of teachers, journalists, and other communicators were gathered to find ways of communication. In the end, the solution was the radio and the illustrated stories because the majority of rural population were illiterate and had no access to TV. The radio posed some difficulties because the transmitters were either operated by the rebel groups that didn't contribute any airtime or the radio system known for the affiliation by the white government system and wasn't a trustworthy source for many. Posters were also designed with brief and simple text. The illustrations with a brief text of 250 words provided descriptions of various services provided by the Red Cross. A total of 26 comics were published entitled "The Tenga Family" which focused on the experiences of the father, mother, son, daughter, and their relatives with Red Cross in two African languages and in English. The campaign could not be evaluated at the time because of the war conditions. But after the conflict, a survey revealed it has been effective in reaching both combatants and civilians. The experiences gained in Zimbabwe became the basis for the implementation of very similar projects in Angola, El Salvador and former Yugoslavia (Qtd. Aghi, pg. 65-67). This case demonstrates how information which is well researched and packaged in an accessible manner, can make an impact on the lives of many.