This is the portrait of a village woman, Kadife Ayar, who got married when she was just a child in Turkey. The shepherd woman continues her daily life’s struggle as she treats and cares for the sheep she makes her living on.
Living in a village in the Emirbaşan district of Hakkari’s (Colemerg) Çukurca district in Turkey, Kadife Ayar has been breeding livestock since her childhood. She not only cares for, feeds and milks the animals, but she almost conducts a veterinary practice and treats the animals with the medical experience she gained over the years. “I am both a shepherd, a berivan (milker) and a veterinarian”, she says.
‘My school was my job’
Ayar is one of those women who had to build her life all by herself and rely on to her own labour. She has always been tending animals and working in the field since her childhood. Despite all the hardships she has faced, Ayar loves village life and animal husbandry.
One of the things she longs for is going to a school and receiving an education. Stating that she wanted to go to school as a child, she said that she was never able to make this wish come true due to the tough circumstances in her family. “I got married as a child. We could not go to school: our school was our job, which was herding animals. Unfortunately, I could not study”, she said.
Ayar wakes up early in the morning, first doing household chores and then: “I go to take care of my animals. I breastfeed the lambs, I try to take care of my work with the animals. Considering the winter conditions, sometimes it gets hard to do all of that”, she says. Ayar makes a living by selling butter, yoghurt and cheese made with the milk she obtained from her sheep. “We see great benefits financially and spiritually. We are very pleased with our job and with our animals”, she said.
Not only a shepherd, but also a healer…
Ayar states that she does not describe herself only as a shepherd, because it is not just herding and milking that she does. “I am also a healer, because I also treat my animals when they get sick. My sheep do not need a veterinarian when they get injured or ill. I look after them on my own. In the summer season, this healing practice gets more challenging due to the worms in their stomachs. Therefore I try to be careful to heal them with necessary vitamins and medicine”, she said.