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