In the Gevaş district of the eastern city of Van (Wan), seasonal agriculture Kurdish women workers suffer terribly as a result of the shockingly low wages, the long back breaking working hours in the intense working enviroment working under the hot summer sun in the tomato fields of Van.
Women who work under the sun all day from 6am to 6pm are only paid a daily wage of 65 TL (approximately £5.00), MA reports.
Some trying to support their families, some trying to cover their school expenses, child workers aged 14-15 are also working on these tomato fields of Van.
Zübeyde Yiğit, 30-year-old Kurdish woman, has been working as an agriculture worker for 10 years. Commenting on her working conditions she mentions one of the biggest problems of the agriculture workers in Turkey, that is uninsured employment.
“Our wages are so low, but we have no other option. Our job is very demanding and we do not have insurance. The most challenging part of our working environment is to work under the sun all day every day.” she said.
Hameyi Yiğit has been working in the fields since her early 20s. The 35-year-old is now married and she is the only source of income for her home. “My husband is unemployed, in order to make a living I am working in this tomato field. Women do most of the jobs in the tomato fields, the men only do the packing, yet our labour is not seen,” she said.
During a work-day, Hamiye and her friends have only one hours break for lunch, nothing more.
After a hard days work, Hameyi arrives home just to start her second shift. When she explains her life in between the field and the home, she sheds light on the reality of millions of working women in Turkey: “When I arrive home, I have domestic responsibilities and I have to cook and take care of the home as well. I am tired here on the field and but as I arrive home I have more things to do.”
Esra Yiğit, aged 20, is another working women from the Yiğit family. She is preparing for an admission exam to university and works in the field to support her family.
“In Gevaş these fields are the source of livelihoods for many people. It is not easy to study and work at the same time, but I have to. There is nothing else to do,” she said.
She has been working in the fields during the summer since she was 12 years old. “I have always worked during the summers to cover my school expenses,” she said, explaining how she is not the only one who studies under such extreme circumstances.
Speaking in years much wiser than most of her peers, Esra summarised the reality of the young Kurdish agriculture workers.
“Sometimes we cannot sleep due to the pain in our backs. And we are not even rewarded for our efforts. But we do this job, because we know that we have to work, we know our necessities and our responsibilities for our families.”