“I remember a feeling…seeing for the first time how someone who couldn’t read, try to give meaning to strange signs [letters] and experiencing the first efforts of a woman putting letters together to make sounds, made me feel like I was witnessing a new birth.” – M.E. Koni
In Istanbul, the most industrialized city in Turkey, women, who migrated from villages are particularly affected by being illiterate. These women are the most excluded since city life requires reading and writing skills. They are the most vulnerable group of women in Turkish society. Our partner organization, Mother Child Education Foundation (ACEV) has been addressing this growing issue in Istanbul and TPF wanted to get involved. Through a connection facilitated by TPF, we were able to contribute to the building of a Learning Center for these migrant women. It is a place for women and children to gather, learn to read and write, socialize and improve their computer skills.
TPF spoke to one of the largest contributors of the Center, Melek Erman Koni via Skype about her philanthropy and her work with ACEV.
Melek, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, has run her own personal foundation, which has been focused on women’s issues for over ten years. She has recently co-joined her private foundation with ACEV, a frontrunner in taking action for women’s rights in Turkey. The goal was to empower migrant women in Istanbul. Melek’s latest endeavor includes the relocation and expansion of her Womens Center, located in Esenler, Istanbul. Melek notes that nearly 10% of women in Turkey are illiterate. At the new center they help migrant women acquire new skills that are much needed in a fast paced world such as Istanbul and encourage them to succeed. Through Melek’s work with ACEV, she realized that it was mostly in “underdeveloped societies, where women’s rights are not accepted”. By working with women, we are able to educate entire communities. “I already see neighbors and friends getting involved at the center,” she noted and added “Seeing the realization of our vision with ACEV gives me inspiration every day.”
Melek has not only contributed financially to these centers, but has been directly involved with the women in the classrooms. “I remember the feeling of seeing how someone who couldn’t read, try to give meaning to strange signs [letters] for the first time and experiencing the initial efforts of a woman putting letters together to make sounds. It made me feel like I was witnessing birth.”
Through TPF’s ability to connect and link donors, the Center benefited from a donation from The Pakis Family Foundation, which was used towards establishing an Information Technology Room in the new Center.
In this new room, women and children will not only learn computer skills, but women will be taking two literacy courses a week through the computers. Melek closed our interview by stating that she is driven by inspiration. People who dedicate their lives to helping others to elevate women’s status throughout Turkey drives her to focus on this important issue. TPF agrees, it is a contagious feeling, and once you make a difference in one life, it is hard not to continue.