Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fighting for Gender Equality: TPF’s Twitter Chat

By Elmira Bayrasli

Engaging men, focusing on childcare options and educating women were some of the suggestions made during our Twitter chat on empowering Turkish girls and closing Turkey’s gender gap. The chat kicked off Turkish Philanthropy Funds’s month-long campaign on empowering teen girls.

Istanbul-based journalist Claire Berlinski participated and, subsequently, had questions about the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report, released last week, that ranks Turkey 122 out of 183 countries on its Gender Gap index. While that is a startling number, Berlinski noted that she’d

“like to see the data broken down a lot more. Turkey is a big country. What’s happening in Istanbul may have nothing to do with what’s happening in Diyarbakir; within Istanbul alone, Nisantasi (an upscale, wealthy neighborhood) and Sultanbeyli (a poor neighborhood) may as well be different planets.”

Rural Anatolia was a point that Turkish journalist Ahu Ozyurt brought up. She noted: “Girls have to take care of their siblings and help their mothers in rural Turkey. Families rarely afford to send all to school”.

She added that there is also the intense focus about “protecting the morality of the girl,” highlighting the cultural challenges that prevent Turkish girls from fulfilling their talent and potential.

That was something I highlighted in this Turkish Daily News column. My grandmother was illiterate because her parents didn’t see the utility of a girl knowing how to read or write – beyond “writing boys love letters.”

Many agreed that overcoming cultural stereotypes would require increased education. While there is near-universal enrolment of girls in primary school, the numbers start to slide in secondary school and drop further when it comes to higher education. Creating incentives and conditions for girls to stay in school is key.

Another suggestion made by Derya Kaya was to support more female entrepreneur and encourage more Turkish women to engage in start-ups and small business. As a fierce entrepreneurship junkie, I agree.

I also agreed with the points about engaging men into finding a solution to closing the Turkish gender gap. The empowerment of women cannot happen on its own. Men have an equal and important role to play to lift women up in Turkey. Many I know are eager to get engaged. We must hold them up as role models and include them in our fight for gender equality.

It is a fight that we’ll continue here at Turkish Philanthropy Funds for the next several weeks. Follow us on Facebook where we have a contest that will grant $10,000 to a Turkish organization supporting a girls’ empowerment project.

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