Going against the grain

  Mar 22, 2021 10:06 am Ibrar Younas 1619
TWO WOMEN are challenging gender stereotypes by working as livestock producers in the traditionally male-dominated sector.

Going against the grain

Taken from this week's issue

Photo by Özmen Yılancılar

Hayriye Gürdağ and Cansev Batıray run animal farms in the village of Paşaköy. Mrs Gürdağ said she is doing her “dream job” and has built a family farming business with nearly 250 cattle and around 100 sheep and goats. 

Mrs Gürdağ said she experienced many obstacles when she decided to start her own farming business, but she refused to give up and fought to make her dreams come true. 

She launched her business with the support of her husband and family.

Originally from Yeniboğaziçi, Mrs Gürdağ first got involved in farming at an early age. After getting married, she gave a break from farming, but then decided to continue the occupation she learned from her elders in Aslanköy, the village her husband is from.

Ten years ago she started farming with cattle but now she is also producing sheep and goats. Mrs Gürdağ, who is also a Paşaköy councillor and a member of the “Women’s Committee” of the Cyprus Turkish Farmers’ Union (KTÇB), told Cyprus Today’s sister newspaper Kıbrıs: “We aim to show that there are female workers in this sector. We want our voices to be heard, we want to be recognised and for no discrimination to occur. 

“This is because when it comes to animal farming, the first thing that comes to mind is men. We want them to accept that we too can do this job”. 

“I have been doing this job for as long as I have known myself. It’s an occupation that I have learned from my elders and really enjoy.

“I moved to Aslanköy after getting married. I started working at my husband’s tyre shop but animal farming was always on my mind. . . I love my job and I love to produce. 

“However, when I said that I wanted to enter the farming business, I received [negative] reactions from people around me. I heard words such as ‘Why are you entering this job at this young age?’, ‘You don’t need the money!’, ‘Why choose this job when there are other occupations you can get into?’.

“These words made more ambitious. I didn’t give up and after my persistence I made an investment with the support of my family and husband. I put my shoulder to the wheel. I also received training and education in this field with my own means. For about 10 years I continue to do my job, which I love”. 

Mrs Gürdağ says that she never considered another occupation, despite how “difficult and tiring” the job is. “If I came to this world again, I would do the same job”, she said. 

“When I got engaged to my husband we fought for one and a half years so I could enter this business. Then we fought one and a half years after I entered the business. 

“But then he gave up so we can move forward. Actually, when I put myself in his shoes, he was right. He was nervous due to the conditions of the country and because he didn’t know the job. 

“I am 32 now and I conquered everything I targeted till now. I Didn’t give up, I paid the price – perhaps more than needed – but I got everything I ever wanted. 

Mrs Gürdağ said she wants to leave her children with “two great businesses” – a cattle farm and a sheep and goat farm.

“I wish there were new training opportunities possible because I want to modernise my business,” she added.

Mrs Batıray has been in the business for 16 years and objects to gender discrimination in occupations, “because every work done is labour”. 

“Women are always productive, just don’t get in the way!” she said. Stating that she hasn’t received any backlash from her own social circle, Mrs Batıray recalled a KTÇB protest where her “business identity” was challenged.

“I was the only woman who joined the protest with my tractor. My male colleagues there kept insisting that I get off my tractor and let them drive it. The reason was that I am a woman. 

“But I didn’t allow that to happen. We were all equal and present there for the same reason. I wanted to remind them that a woman was there too.”

After graduating from secondary school, Mrs Batıray, who owns over 100 cattle, said wanted to do this job, which she said she learned from her mother. 

“As someone who loves to work and to produce, I have made a huge investment in this field for my two children. 

“In order to turn to make the farm more efficient and better quality, I received training with the means offered by the European Union.”