In a country where women are still behind men in terms of employment, women in villages seldom have free time. Though their counterparts in cities complain of lack of jobs, agricultural labor often relies on women in rural parts of Turkey. This is especially true in the Black Sea region in the north which scores high in the number of women’s employment, at 38.6%.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic did little to decrease women’s agricultural labor in the region. As those in cities marked International Women’s Day with events, they were back in the fields, toiling from the first light of the day until sunset. The rough terrain of the Black Sea region, where they have to scale the hills for a simple job of harvest or cultivation, also does not deter them. Throughout the year, they pick tea and hazelnuts, two main sources of income in the region, grow them or tend the livestock. As the warm weather takes hold in the usually rainy region, they flock to the steep slopes to pick food and firewood for next winter.
After doing household chores and feeding their livestock, women head to the forests and fields for labor. Weekend curfews related to the coronavirus are in place in cities while women, in small groups or alone, toil in the fields and orchards.
In some villages of Trabzon province, there are more women in the fields than men. Most men are migrant workers in other cities, sending money back home.
Fatma Civelek, a seemingly frail old woman, sings a local folk song as she carries firewood on her back. “This must weigh, I don’t know, may be 50 kilos,” she says, as she hauls her load to home in a village near Düzköy district. “I worked so hard that my socks were torn apart. I feel so tired, but this is something in our nature. The women of the Black Sea cannot rest. If the weather is good, they rush outside to find something to work on,” she says. “This is like a habit for me. No one can confine me to home,” Aysel Eraydın says as she picks firewood, as well as fodder for her animals. “May Allah help those stuck amid four walls,” Fatma Yavuz says as she spends the weekend curfew tending her cows and working in the field.
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