My Story: A Found Poem Reflecting the Voice of Women Studying in Open Education Programs in Turkey 

By Aras Bozkurt, Suzan Koseoglu, & Jeffrey M Keefer
OER19, Dublin Ireland

Introduction

Our work builds on the project My Story (Bozkurt & Büyük, 2018), which explored the experiences of students enrolled in Anadolu University Open Education Faculty programs. In the project, students were asked to share their stories leading to open and distance learning (ODL) via an online survey. 2700 stories were collected from students studying in higher education programs from a distance. Out of these stories, 70 stories that could inspire other students were curated in an edited book (2018). These narratives demonstrate that, given the right conditions, ODL can be an agent for social justice, as it has the power to break down barriers to education and, consequently, democratize societies.

In this work, we highlight the voices of 16 women in the edited book using found poetry (Patrick, 2016; Prendergast, 2006) as a methodological and pedagogical tool. The approach is useful to show some common threads in the narratives, in particular, the oppression of women in traditional and patriarchal communities. The women in the selected stories have had remarkably similar experiences in their struggle for education, characterized by a never-ending fight for education, strong desire for equal opportunity, and dedication to study amongst childcare, housekeeping and other domestic duties. As the audience hear the struggles and aspirations of the women in their journey to education, what lessons can be drawn for ODL in general, what connections can be made with women in other contexts, and what actions can be taken globally in open education to help women in their shared struggles?

Methodology

The data we collected in this study revealed a powerful, descriptive language in how it portrayed the experiences of the participants. The raw data were in Turkish, and two of the researchers coded and exchanged their findings to identify common themes across the different narratives. While thematically coded as a traditional qualitative analysis, we recognized that the voices of the participants were of such strength that they warranted a more performative explication in keeping with their power and form once they were translated to English. In this way, Research Found Poetry was used to enable the researchers to partner with the data and represent data consistent to the essence of the participant experience being represented (Patrick, 2016; Prendergast, 2006). The words of the participants were poetically presented to both exemplify the thematic findings while remaining true to the power in the texts themselves. In this manner, the researchers adopted a “positionality of artful scientist” (Patrick, 2016, p. 2) by conveying the central messages in a creative expression that utilized the words of the participants through the shared understanding of the researchers (Faulkner, 2007; Lahman et al., 2010; Lahman & Richard, 2014).

The final found poem represents the following themes: (1) the oppression of women in traditional and patriarchal communities, (2) women’s never-ending fight for education, (3) their strong desire for equal opportunity, (4) dedication to study amongst childcare, housekeeping and other domestic duties, (5) experiencing a break from mainstream education due to external pressures/power structures, (6) socio-economic conditions leading to drop out, (7) feelings of confinement, hopelessness, (8) dedication to study in the face of economic struggles, (9) commitment to learning, (10) reaching the goal, success. The Turkish version is linguistically faithful (taken directly from the qualitative data) to participants’ original comments; however, the English version is lightly modified where needed to better convey cultural and contextual meanings.

Found Poem (English version)

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Zora Neale Hurston

We women, girls, share similar stories across our fatherland.
(Anonymous, 54, İzmir, p. 8)

It is difficult to be a woman,
here, in our land,
a constant struggle to survive,
standing on our own feet,
as defending our opinions
can bring shame,
can even be a crime.
(Anonymous, 24, Batman, p. 9)

After the eight years of my required education,
(Anonymous, 29, Gaziantep, p. 14)
After I graduated from primary school,
(Anonymous, 54, İzmir, p. 8; Anonymous, 41, İstanbul, p. 11)
After my teacher laughed at my school uniform buttons,
(Anonymous, 43, Ankara, p. 20)
Since my father did not let me continue my education,
(Anonymous, 31, Kayseri, p. 48)

I left school.
(Anonymous, 43, Ankara, p. 20)

I was forced to leave school.
(Anonymous, 54, İzmir, p. 8)

I wanted education,
yet had no money.
(Anonymous, 30, Antalya, p. 62)

Our lives confine us
and our dreams
in a cage of impossibility.
(Anonymous, 28, Samsun, p. 13)

But I couldn’t stay at home,
even I couldn’t stop myself.
(Anonymous, 29, Gaziantep, p. 14)

I had to find a way out,
I had to fight
so as not to get lost in this darkness.
It was devastating.
(Anonymous, 24, Batman, p. 9)  

Open, distance learning
was my best,
only,
option.

With a five-year old and a baby on my lap,
(Anonymous, 29, Gaziantep, p. 15)
Pregnant with my second son,
(Anonymous, 32, Ankara, p. 39)
A working mother with two kids,
(Anonymous, 42, İstanbul, p. 62)
With my 40 day-old baby daughter,
(Anonymous, 54, İzmir, p. 9)

By selling the ring gifted for my wedding
by my childhood friend,
(Anonymous, 35, Ankara, p. 64)

I started to realize my dreams.
(Anonymous, 29, Gaziantep, p. 14)

It was hard.
I found it really difficult.
How would I study?
How would I be successful?
Tests,
exams,
how could I learn by myself?
I was snowed under with home,
kids,
work,
guests.

But, I never stopped.
I wanted an education,
and I loved it.
I believed in myself.
(Anonymous, 37, Germany, p. 24)

My story sounds familiar,
doesn’t it?
I am only one of thousands of women oppressed.
(Anonymous, 31, Kayseri, p. 48)

I’m still fighting for my rights,
fighting to learn,
to be educated
and spread new knowledge
to every moment of my life.
(Anonymous, 24, Batman, p. 9)

For a woman,
education means power.
A diploma means power.
(Anonymous, 26, Kahramanmaraş, p. 57)

For life to exist,
for the world to exist,
for women to exist,
we need an education.
(Anonymous, 24, Batman, p. 10)

Now,
I want to compete,
equally,
in life,
though I started from behind.
(Anonymous, 41, İstanbul, p. 12)

Learning doesn’t last for eight
or fifteen
years,
it lasts as long as we are able.
(Anonymous, 40, Antalya, p. 52)

No matter what I say,
I cannot fully express myself.
The flow of my life has changed,
and dry lands blossomed.
(Anonymous, 43, Ankara, p. 21)

This dream was an untold tale,
but now
it has become
a living story.
(Anonymous, 37, Germany, p. 25)

References

Bozkurt, A., & Büyük, K. (2018). Benim hikayem. Eskişehir: Anadolu Üniversitesi.  ISBN: 978-975-06-3251-8 Available at http://ekitap.anadolu.edu.tr/#bookdetail162516

Faulkner, S. L. (2007). Concern with craft: Using ars poetica as criteria for reading research poetry. Qualitative Inquiry, 13(2), 218–234. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800406295636

Lahman, M. K. E., Geist, M. R., Rodriguez, K. L., Graglia, P. E., Richard, V. M., & Schendel, R. K. (2010). Poking around poetically: Research, poetry, and trustworthiness. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(1), 39–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800409350061

Lahman, M. K. E., & Richard, V. M. (2014). Appropriated poetry: Archival poetry in research. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(3), 344–355. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800413489272

Patrick, L. D. (2016). Found poetry: Creating space for imaginative arts-based literacy research writing. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 65(1), 384–403. https://doi.org/10.1177/2381336916661530

Prendergast, M. (2006). Found poetry as literature review: Research poems on audience and erformance. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 369–388. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800405284601

Hurston, Z. N. (1942). Dust tracks on a road. New York: HarperPerennial.

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