By: Ahu Ozyurt
Turkey’s economy has seen a decade of solid growth yet women were the ones that benefited least from this surge. According to recent research women’s employment level were down to 25 % in 2012. Some experts would argue that this is closely linked to the increase in family income where women opt to stay at home and take care of kids. Others would say completely the opposite.
The current ruling party in Turkey AK Party highlights the domestic role of women in the house. Ironically Turkish businesses support several initiatives that would take women out of their traditional roles.
Take Ozyegin University for example. Founded by one of Turkey’s most successful entrepreneurs, Husnu Ozyegin, this institution specifically focuses on women who want to run their own businesses. Ozyegin University has partnered with Goldman Sachs to create at least 400 women entrepreneurs in five years. This year the program has 20 graduates. The global scope of this program is to empower at least 10,000 women worldwide. In places like India and South Africa the “10,000 Women” initiative teaches, mentors and also creates a microcredit pool for women.
In Turkey, Ozyegin University and Goldman Sachs help women who already own a business but want to make it bigger and more successful. Finance, accounting, PR, and marketing classes were in full swing in the heat of the summer this year. Participant and recent graduates told me they benefited the learning opportunity as well as the network they belong to now.
Another good story comes from the cellular operator giant, Turkcell. Turkcell paired up with the Institute to Avoid Wasteful Spending (TISVA) and Grameen Bank to create a technology platform for women who would borrow money from “angel investors”. The amount could be as small as 10 TL. The program’s aim was to cut “donation-based” entrepreneurship among businesses and turn them into real businesses who would learn how to manage their money.
Tens of success stories are on the web-page of Turkcell’s www.ekonomiyekadingucu , meaning “women power for economy”. They became artisans, shepherds, handcraft makers, even waste paper collectors. And they are aiming to make their businesses bigger. The next step for these businesses is to sell their products in markets out of Turkey.
This year I have decided to celebrate Ramadan Bayram by giving a hand to those women who are changing the way we think of what a woman should do. Would you join me? Let us all do something small but powerful for women in Turkey.
Happy Bayram !