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Social Justice

Özlem Öztürk

Özlem Öztürk Raises Awareness on Landmines among Children

On 13 January 2011, Sabancı Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Özlem Öztürk, a young educator who visits schools in Southeastern Turkey to educate children against the landmines.

Landmines and other war leavings are considered to be the most cunning and treacherous weapons of our times. While significant efforts are being made in order to ban them worldwide, there still are a great number of remaining landmines in Turkey. According to a 2004 international landmine report of the Landmine Monitor, 936.663 landmines were planted in Turkey between 1957 and 1998. The same report also mentions that 39.569 landmines were planted only in Southeastern Turkey, during years of conflict between 1989 and 1992. According to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, Turkey has to clean all landmines by March 2014.

Özlem Öztürk is a teacher. While working in various schools in Southeastern Turkey, she listened to such stories of landmines from her students. She has learned how landmines and bomb leavings become the playmates of local children. She has witnessed the sneaky manner a landmine approaches a child with, the unawareness of children, and the lack of concern by government authorities.

Instead of pointing fingers at others, she decided to make a difference in children's lives and established the "Association for Social Awareness" in 2008. The Association started raising awareness of this issue at schools in the region. Targeting children between the ages of 7-15, Özlem Öztürk is organizing workshops at schools and through booklets and documentaries teaching them how to avoid landmines.

"What truly matters to us is to save children's lives. Even saving one child's life is important to us. Children who attended our workshops learn how to protect themselves from landmines and no longer play with them. This is the most important outcome of our project" says Özlem Öztürk while making a significant difference in the lives of children and their families.

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