Introducing ‘Zeyno,; another member of our garbage ladies team

We would like to introduce you to Zeyno – not her real name but the name she would like to have been known by. Zeyno comes to our workshop most afternoons and despite plenty of issues from her home life that she carries with her, always has a great sense of humor and makes the other ladies laugh. Now and again though, when things are really bad at home, she sits quietly and keeps to herself, taking advantage of the opportunity to be somewhere where she feels welcome and where she has a role. By now, there is enough of a solidarity in the workshop that the other ladies, those full time and the piece-makers who come and go, know to just let her be. But mostly, she is in a good mood when she is with us and tells her share of jokes to make the innocent blush.

This is what Zeyno would like to share:

‘I didn’t finish high school as I became politically active, like so many others at that time. I was in my last year of high school in 1980, the time of the last military coup d’etat. My political activism got me kicked out of school before I graduated and then things were just a mess in general in the country and I was living a situation that my family saw I got out of for good.

When I was 16 years old, I would flirt with a man who was twice my age on my way to school. He would meet me and walk with me for a while. I was in love! When my father found out about this, he beat me and threw me out in the street. I still have scars from the beating. That the man was so much older wasn’t the problem anymore than speaking to him on the street was. There were two larger problems. The first was that the man was separated from his wife and the second was that he was Kurdish.

My mother is Kurdish! But my father said one Kurd in the family was enough.

For three months I stayed with relatives. When I came back home, my family married me off to a man 17 years older, a widower. Not marrying him wasn’t an option. He had a previous wife but, unlike the man I was in love with, at least she was dead, so it was okay in my families’ eyes to marry him.

Now, thirty-two years later, all my husband does for our home is to pay the rent. I pay for everything else with the money I earn from what I produce for the workshop. My husband worked as a carpenter and though he is officially retired, he still does carpentry work. For 12 years now we have slept in separate bedrooms. Was I ever happy in my marriage? No. Never.

I worked before I came here. Shortly after I got married, I worked as an accountant’s assistant for one of the factories here in town. That job lasted two weeks as my older brother came back from the army and even though I was married, I was still afraid of him. So, it’s not like I never worked before, I did work for 15 days.

I have two children, a daughter and a son. In 2002, my daughter was operated on for a brain tumor. She’d doing fine now, raising her own children. My son just graduated from high school and recently got a full-time job. I take care of my grandchildren on Thursdays, market day, which is why I don’t come to the workshop on that day. My son just graduated from high school and recently got a full-time job.

I come to cop(m)adam as there is no life for me, for myself, of my own, at home. My brother lives with us and he’s always drunk. I can’t go anywhere too far away as there’s no telling what damage he may do in the house, in the neighborhood. I come to the workshop to get away from my home life. I feel more confident since I’ve been coming here. With the first money I earned, I bought myself a gold chain. It later broke, but no matter as I had it fixed. I was so tired of taking care of everyone else, I wanted to do something for myself. With the money I earned the next month, I paid the electricity bill.

Yes, I can make the wrapper bags – I made one but stopped half-way through the second one as my crocheted bags seemed to be popular and no one else really seemed interested in making them. I also have made some crocheted pieces. I’ve made baskets and throw-rugs out of wool-fabric scraps and flower pots out of plastic bags.

It’s like taking a deep breath when I come here. Shall I make us a cup of tea?’

All in another day in the life of the garbage ladies.