Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Turkish Girl Power

By Elmira Bayrasli

Turkey may be a rising economic star and emerging leader in the Middle East, but it still has long to go to close the gap on gender equality.

Released this week as the World Economic Forum convenes, the global network reports in its annual Gender Gap report that Turkey, the 16th largest economy in the world, is 121 out of 135 countries when it comes to male-female disparity. That’s a problem. Problem is that it can’t just stay a problem.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds has been doing a lot to bridge the gap between Turkish men and women. Working with partners such as ACEV (The Mother and Child Education Foundation) and Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi, we’ve been putting girls to school and helping illiterate women learn to read.

Putting girls to school is especially important – and not because the UN Millennium Development Goals says so. Educating girls raises living standards and contributes to a country’s growth. It increases security and democracy. It improves their health (and that of their families) and saves lives. According to Women Deliver, “every year of education delays a girls’ marriage. Girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to be married as children than girls with little or no education.”

Secondary education for girls does so much more than just delay marriage. It improves the lives of the children that they do eventually bare. “Each additional year of schooling for girls reduces infant mortality for their offspring by up to 10%.” These women provide better health care for their children. The children of women that have attended secondary education are more likely to attend secondary school as well and even go onto college. It is a positive cycle of progress that has proven to move communities forward.

But girls drop out of secondary school for a number of reasons:

Expenses: With tuition costs, school uniforms, supplies and books, poor families have to choose which child continues on in school. The child they select is most often a boy.

Puberty: As women start to go through puberty, finding separate facilities for them, or sanitary napkins is a challenge.

Culture: As a girl matures, there is the duel pressure of her to appear chaste and marry.

In Turkey, the number of girls enrolled in secondary school has been on the decrease. According to the World Bank, from 73.29 in 2008 to 71.28 in 2009. That is not a positive trend.

For the next 10 days, TPF will talk about how to improve the enrollment of girls in secondary school as well as empowering adolescent Turkish girls to realize their potential. We’re launching a Twitter campaign under the #gendergap hashtag that will donate $1 for every tweet or RT on empowering girls, up to $10,000. We’ll donate that $10,000 to programs or program supporting young teen girls in Turkey.

On January 31 at 2PM EST/9PM IST we’re hosting a Twitter chat on this topic.

Here is how you can participate:

1) RT @tphilanthropy whenever you see the hashtag #gendergap

2) Provide us information about resources on empowering young girls by using the hashtag #gendergap

3) Point us to an expert working on empowering young girls by using the hashtag #gendergap

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Social Entrepreneurship on the Rise in Turkey

By Zeynep Meydanoglu and Matthias Scheffelmeier

The last decade has seen the rise of Turkey as a regional and global leader with a dynamic and strong economy. At the same time, Turkey has also been facing critical development and democratization goals with poor track records in human rights, women’s empowerment, its treatment of its minorities and journalists.

Can social entrepreneurship - with its potential to identify the right points of intervention – be just what Turkey needs to become a country where everyone can contribute to social change?

This was the question on the minds of everyone last month when prominent members of the American-Turkish diaspora – business leaders, students, academicians, lawyers, doctors and artists - gathered for a roundtable discussion on the future and potential of social entrepreneurship in Turkey. Contributions of Turkey’s leading social entrepreneurs, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton and Ashoka Fellows Ibrahim Betil and Nasuh Mahruki, declared the answer to be “yes”.

Ibrahim Betil, trained as an industrialist and banker, presented a prime example of how a country like Turkey can leverage its growing capacity in the business and social sectors: invest in its young population. This is what Ibrahim did ten years ago. In 2001, he turned his attention to putting in place opportunities for young adults to contribute to positive social action through their own initiative. He founded TOG- Community Volunteers Foundation of Turkey a leading youth organization touching the lives of thousands of youth in 90 universities across the country.

Nasuh Mahruki, an author, photographer and the first Turk to climb Mount Everest presented AKUT- Search and Rescue Association Turkey’s leading search and rescue organization. AKUT has not only saved countless lives but also has become a symbol promoting volunteerism, leadership, and civic initiative in the country. “We push our volunteers toward the deep realization that ordinary people can and must take ownership of their safety in crisis situations” says Nasuh “and by focusing on safety, an issue that is critical to men and women of all backgrounds, we make a broad change in public conceptions about the roles and responsibilities of citizenship”.

Bill Drayton highlighted that the emergence of these leaders in societies was no coincidence. “By 1980, there was a new generation coming up that was tired of the inefficiencies of the older order," Drayton says. “We could see that the historical moment had come for transformation.” It was a point that was repeated by Ibrahim and Nasuh. They emphasized the importance of social entrepreneurs in encouraging others to become engaged citizens and changemakers. "Each social entrepreneur is a role model. His or her success will encourage many others to stand up, care and organize," remarked Bill Drayton. As 2012 gets underway, it’s a good message to go into the new year with. Let’s get to work.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Van Earthquake Relief Fund Update #3

Happy 2012! Like most people, we at TPF, have been thinking a lot about not only the year ahead, but the year past. For those in Van, Turkey, it was a hard one. The devastating earthquake that struck the Southeastern Turkish city left several hundred dead and thousands homeless. With temperatures below freezing that has become a pressing crisis. TPF is responding.

In just a short time, TPF has raised over $300,000 to help with the city’s relief and rebuilding efforts. TPF’s team held direct meetings with key organizations in Turkey in November 2011 to identify projects that will respond to immediate needs as well as have longer-term impact. Our selection criteria have been, implementation capability, efficiency, financial strength and transparency. Van Earthquake Relief Fund recipients are as follows:

KIZILAY (Turkiye Kizilay Dernegi - Turkish Red Crescent Society) Teams wasted no time in responding to the earthquake. They were on the scene within 2 hours after the first rumbles. The relief items have been deployed from the logistics centers of KIZILAY spread all over Turkey. One hundred one KIZILAY staff and dozens of KIZILAY Volunteers are still working in the disaster area in order to meet the needs of the victims. With support from TPF, KIZILAY provided 15 container houses, with running water, bath, electricity, cooking facility, etc. to the victims. With additional funds coming in earmarked for KIZILAY, we will send a second grant to the organization in the coming days.
Grant Amount: $91,500

HADD (Hisar Anadolu Destekleme Dernegi - Hisar Anatolian Support Society) aims to educate young women of displaced families in Eastern Turkey. HADD activities to date have been focused mainly in the city of Van. The organization runs multiple kilim weaving workshops in Van, two of which were destroyed in the October earthquake. TPF’s assistance will help HADD build a prefabricated workshop to replace the damaged ones.
Grant Amount: $20,000

VAKAD (Van Kadin Dernegi -Van Women's Association) was established in 2004 to address the intersections of gender-‎based violence and women's economic independence in Eastern Turkey. It provides ‎women, primarily survivors of violence and displaced women, with legal and ‎psychological support as well as trainings on women's human rights and health. The organization was one of the first respondents to the earthquake providing food, tents, clothing to the victims. VAKAD continues to respond to basic needs especially of the most vulnerable populations such as disabled and elderly. TPF support provided emergency relief supplies for the victims.
Grant Amount: $12,000

KEDV (Kadin Emegini Degerlendirme Vakfi - Foundation for the Support of Women's Work) aims to improve women’s’ economic well-being and quality of life. KEDV has gained vast experience in post disaster efforts during the Marmara Earthquake in 1999. Right after its active involvement in relief efforts, KEDV opened eight Women and Children’s Centers in prefabricated settlements in the disaster region. These centers are still functioning as local grassroots women organizations. TPF will support the establishment of a prefabricated Women and Children Center in Van to provide women and children with a safe, collective space to help them get over the earthquake trauma, and to support women's leadership to recreate their own lives, homes and communities. Grant Amount: $25,000

CYDD (Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi - Association For The Support Of Contemporary Living) aims to contribute to the formation of a contemporary society in Turkey through education. CYDD provides scholarships to students in Van and has been assisting Yuzuncu Yil University to start the Spring 2012 term on time. With support from TPF, CYDD will build a prefabricated building for educational activities on the campus of Van Yuzuncu Yil University. The urgency of the need was a critical factor in TPF’s determination. The buildings will be finished by March 1, 2012 to be ready for the Spring semester.
Grant Amount: $50,000

AKUT Search and Rescue Association (AKUT Arama Kurtarma Dernegi), initially designed for mountaineering search and rescue, became well known for its rapid, organized response to the Marmara quake in 1999, an effort that saved hundreds of lives and showed that AKUT's disciplined approach to citizen volunteering was effective across a broad range of terrains. AKUT's response to the October 2011 Van earthquake has also been remarkable. TPF will help AKUT to purchase equipment that are used during search and rescue efforts.

ACEV (Anne Cocuk Egitim Vakfi - Mother Child Education Foundation) serves communities in need with carefully designed early childhood and adult education programs in Turkey. The organization not only provides an alternative education model to those who do not have access to formal education but also supports existing preschool activities, and develops programs that strengthen the relationship between school and family. ACEV was one of the first organizations out-of-town that responded to the earthquake in Van. TPF support will contribute to ACEV’s efforts in building a Family Rehabilitation Center. The goal is to provide long-term solution to the needs of the families in Van.

We would like to recognize GlobalGiving, The American Turkish Society, Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, Assembly of Turkish-American Association, Bridges of Hope Project, Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce, Turkish-American Business Forum, Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan, Turkish-American Association of Arizona, Turkish-American Association of California, Turkish-American Cultural Association of Washington, American Turkish Association Houston, Turkish American Student Association, Turkish American Association of Minnesota, Turkish-American Ladies League, Association of Turkish- Americans of Southern California, Turkish Cultural Association in State University of New York, Binghamton, North Florida Turkish-American Cultural Association and all the more than 500 individuals, who have donated from $2 to $22,000, for supporting TPF's Van Earthquake Relief Fund.

“Happy New Year” shouldn’t just be something uttered at the stroke of midnight at the end of December. It should be something to strive for the next 365 days. Through our project partners, we have seen glimmers of change in Van. When we look to the future we can imagine the glimmers growing brighter. For our part, the TPF team will do everything to disburse the Van Earthquake Relief Fund to make the most impact in the region. That will go towards our efforts to make it a truly happy new year.