Can you imagine, at the age of 17, packing a back-pack for your wedding instead of your math class? That is not too far from reality for hundreds and thousands of girls, who are out of school in Turkey. Despite joining the Group of 20, the exclusive club of most powerful economies, Turkey ranks at 126, out of 134 on gender gap according to the World Economic Forum Report. Turkey is behind Iran (123) and Bangladesh (82). The vast majority of the worst-scoring countries are Muslim.
In order to help change this little-known unfortunate reality, Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF) joined forces with a group of public and private partners that have answered a call from President Obama for a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities. Following President Obama’s call famous Cairo Speech on June of 2009, notable organizations and companies such as Morgan Stanley, Cisco, Exxon Mobile, Intel, The Coca-Cola Company, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Case Foundation and Brown University have volunteered resources of money and talent to spearhead a new initiative properly entitled Partners for a New Beginning. So did TPF.
TPF’ s “Yes She Can!” will work with two local partners, Turkcell, the Turkish telecommunications giant and Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (Association for the Support of the Contemporary Living), a not-for-profit dedicated to increasing the schooling of girls in Turkey. Together they will launch a mentorship program that will connect Turkish girls between the ages of 12-21 to professional women in the United States. The immediate purpose is to increase college enrollment that will in the long-term result with more women in the workforce, gradually improving gender equality in Turkey. Turkcell and TPF will also fund scholarships.
Yes She Can will engage at least 100 girls in its first year, and increase that number by 10 percent in the each following year, eventually reducing the number of girls not attending primary school down to half million by 2020, and to 300,000 by 2025.
Yes She Can is not the only public and private partnership in Turkey. For instance, Cisco’s SPARK for Women will provide economic opportunities to women In Turkey through information technology education and training. 120 women in six cities will become trainers and will each train additional 20 women, impacting 2,400 women in total. IBM will invest in $1.2 million and send its highest performer business and IT consultants to provide free consulting to local clients in Istanbul, Jakarta and Cairo.
Such public and private ventures are gaining popularity over traditional forms of foreign-aid. Simply increasing aid to the poor can do more harm than good, by creating dependency, feeding corruption and poor governance. The poor do not need charity but sound investments that spur economic growth and opportunities, create jobs and raise standard of living. That’s why the US is increasingly turning towards strategic partnerships with the private and public sector.
If you are one of the many Americans wondering why you should be concerned about the poor elsewhere in face of such economic hardship at home, think about the countless benefits to the increasingly connected global-economy. The women who will benefit from PNB’s education and training programs will in the long run help improve economic standards in Turkey. So by participating, you are not only being a do-gooder, but also making an investment for your own future in some little way.
Share with us your thoughts on public-private partnerships at [email protected]. Would you like to mentor a girl in Turkey? For more information on how you can participate in Yes She Can, contact us at [email protected].