Homeless People in Istanbul
“Hanging a bread” is a long-standing Turkish tradition during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset. Before breaking the fast, people form queues in front of bakeries for a hot piece of “pide” bread. At the time of payment, they pay for an additional piece for those in need. The bakers secretly distribute these donations so that nobody knows who donates and receives them. This sharing tradition has expanded, as exemplified by a former homeless person, Ayşe Tükrükçü, who founded “Hayata Sarıl Lokantası” (Embrace Life Restaurant), a restaurant for homeless people in Istanbul.

Poverty and Homelessness in Turkey

According to the World Bank, in 2019, Turkey recorded a poverty rate of 10.2%. However, with the impact of COVID-19, this percentage increased to 12.2% in 2020. Additionally, despite being lower than other European countries, Turkey has a homeless population of roughly 70,000. At that point, the role of charities fighting against extreme poverty comes to the forefront.

The Story Behind the Restaurant

Having been a victim of domestic and sexual abuse and lived in the streets for months, Ayşe Tükrükçü did not want anyone to face the same conditions she experienced. After receiving support from “Şefkat-Der” (an organization supporting homeless people in Turkey), she wanted to help this disadvantaged group embrace life again. Tükrükçü went on to establish “Hayata Sarıl Derneği” (Embrace Life Association) in February 2017. Nine months later, the association started “Hayat Sarıl Lokantası” to serve as a restaurant for homeless people in Istanbul.

How Does the Restaurant Work?

The restaurant operates as a regular restaurant during lunchtime and accepts meal donations that pay for an additional meal. In the evening, it turns into a soup kitchen and distributes donations to the homeless people in the area. This initiative has drawn the general public’s attention, and volunteers, such as famous Turkish chefs, have also served in the restaurant several times.

Along with serving food to the homeless, the association also provides legal, psychological, training and basic medical support to them so they can build new lives. The association does not have any income-generating operations yet, and thus, these services are reliant on individual and corporate contributions. Thanks to media coverage and drumbeat, big firms such as Grundig – a home appliances brand – help keep Hayata Sarıl Derneği alive through sponsorships. However, in an interview, Ayşe Tükrükçü mentioned that regardless of the amount of the donation, they value all personal contributions as much as sponsorships because the donors join a community dedicated to doing good and bonding with those in need.

The Success of the Initiative

The success of Hayata Sarıl Lokantası is hidden in numbers. According to its website, between November 2, 2017, and February 14, 2020, the restaurant served 57,268 plates of free meals, hosted more than 500 volunteers in the soup kitchen, and saved 6,100 kg of food from being wasted.

A restaurant for homeless people in Istanbul reflects the outcome of an individual’s efforts to decrease poverty and its effects. The restaurant not only works to address an important social issue but has also brought the community together to implement long-term solutions that will positively impact thousands of people.

– Murathan Arslancan
Photo: Flickr

Migration to Turkey
Migration to Turkey has hit an all-time high as Turkey is home to “one of the largest migrant populations in the world,” hosting about 4 million refugees and asylum seekers as of 2022, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). According to the International Organization for Migration, historically, Turkey has stood as “a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants” due to its “geopolitical location on the route from the Middle East to Europe” and the conflicts occurring in neighboring countries. Turkey’s migration history dates back to the 1400s, under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Conflict and Violence as a Contributing Factor

Past historic conflicts such as World War II and the Kosovo War significantly contributed to the migration to Turkey while the Syrian civil war and the 2021 Taliban offensive remain the cause of more recent waves of migration.

One of the significant conflict-induced migrations to mention is the Bulgarian Turkish emigration that took place in 1989. Turks who ended up in Bulgarian territory while it was under Ottoman rule had to leave Bulgaria due to political pressure and violence in 1989. Nearly 400,000 ethnic Turks then emigrated back to Turkey. The Bulgarian emigration prompted further waves of migration from the Balkans.

In the 1990s, amid the Bosnian War, about 20,000 Bosnian refugees fled to Turkey in search of safety. In time to come, a similar number of refugees from Kosovo and Macedonia sought refuge within Turkish borders, also due to conflict and violence in their home countries.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

The number of refugees coming from the Balkans remains relatively small compared to the scale of recent migration waves that hit Turkey. According to World Vision, as of 2021, data indicates that there are more than 6.8 million displaced Syrian refugees. Nearly 4 million of these Syrian refugees currently reside in Turkey.

The first wave of Syrian refugees came about in 2011 when the Syrian civil war just broke out. The world then had to accommodate a large number of war-fleeing refugees from Syria who are currently still unable to return to their country as the conflict rages on.

Turkey as a Country of Refuge

Hosting the largest population of Syrian refugees comes with great responsibility for the Turkish government in terms of meeting the economic and social needs of the migrants.

Turkey spent nearly $350 million of its budget on addressing the refugee crisis in 2022, according to the UNHCR. A large amount of that budget went to “realizing rights in safe environments” and “empowering communities and achieving gender equality.”

In 2021, the EU approved a budget of €149.6 million to fund the vulnerable Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. With the combined EU funding and the Turkish government’s budget for refugees, Syrian refugees are able to receive the support necessary to integrate into Turkish society and into the formal economy.

Alongside government support, there are many nonprofit organizations helping refugees. Established in 2015, Small Projects Istanbul (SPI) is an Istanbul-based nonprofit helping displaced families from the MENA region reestablish their lives through various programs. With a specific focus on youth and women, according to its website, SPI runs a number of initiatives to “promote access to education, protection, social services, psycho-social support and livelihoods.”

At present, Turkey is a major hub for war-fleeing migrants and a representative of exemplary migrant policies.

– Selin Oztuncman
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Turkey
Turkey has a population of more than 85 million people which projections have determined will grow significantly over the next 50 years. Turkey is currently experiencing rapid growth in energy demand due to an increase in domestic power consumption. In order to meet energy demand, the Turkish government has prioritized the adoption of renewable energy goals. In an effort to strengthen energy security, the country is taking action to increase renewable energy in Turkey and prioritize clean energy sources such as solar power and wind energy.

Moving Away From Imports

Despite having its own deposits of oil and natural gas, Turkey sources more than 74% of its energy from imports. Local oil production in Turkey meets only 7% of its growing energy demand, which causes the nation to rely heavily upon foreign sources of oil.

In order to combat the high cost of imports, the Turkish government has made energy security and energy diversification a top priority. The country’s first nuclear power plant should open in 2023, and the government has laid forth additional plans to expand its energy sector to prioritize clean energy sources. Sustainable development will help transition the country away from its dependence on Russian oil imports, which have become more costly following United States sanctions against Russia.

Energy Poverty in Turkey

Affordable access to energy is an important part of economic and social development. Sufficient access to electricity in Turkey will help eradicate poverty within the country by ensuring its people will have access to an overall higher quality of education, food security and overall well-being. Recent data suggests that about one-quarter of households in Turkey are energy poor and nearly half of households in Turkey are at risk of facing energy poverty. Expanding renewable energy in Turkey will help these people by making consumer energy prices more affordable. Affordable electricity prices will lead to greater inclusivity for the country’s poor, placing less strain on low-income households.

Reducing the Carbon Footprint

In October 2021, the Turkish Parliament became part of the Paris climate agreement, aiming to reach a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2053. Turkey has substantial reserves of renewable energy resources which have the capacity to sustain its projected economic growth and future population increases. Turkey is a suitable country for solar and wind power generation due to its mild climate and expansive coastline. Additionally, its mountainous landscape boasts many rivers, which provide the country with suitable locations for hydroelectric dams.

In 2021, Turkey invested $1 billion into increasing the country’s capacity for wind turbines. Wind and solar power plants saved the country $700 million worth of imports over the last 12 months.

A transition to fully utilize Turkey’s clean energy sources will solidify the country’s energy independence and meet its growing demand for electricity. Turkey’s investments in renewable energy continue to save the country millions of euros each month. By increasing its reliance on renewable power generation, the country is reducing its carbon footprint and preparing for a net zero emissions economy.

The Benefits

Turkey’s economy would likely benefit from clean energy expansion by attracting new renewable energy investments and eliminating its costly reliance on nonrenewable imports. The country is close in proximity to Europe, which has been facing multiple disruptions related to its energy supply in recent years. Turkey has the potential to profit from future renewable energy exports to Europe and other regions. By diversifying its energy sector, the country can boost economic development by creating new jobs in manufacturing, installation and other outlets.

The financial benefits of renewable energy in Turkey should bolster economic growth and increase clean energy government incentives. The country aims to continue its investment in sustainable infrastructure, which should increase access to affordable energy. By driving down costs and increasing accessibility, clean energy could help alleviate energy poverty in Turkey. By strengthening the country in these ways, renewable energy in Turkey should help the country sustain long-term economic advantages and increase the quality of life for its people.

– Dylan Priday
Photo: Unsplash

Conditional Cash TransferIn 2003, the Turkish government enacted a Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) Program that included bi-monthly cash transfers that beneficiaries receive with the stipulation that the family’s children have at least an 80% attendance rate in school. However, the Turkish Government has modified its educational program in order to address a wide array of issues throughout multiple decades. For example, the Turkish Government expanded the Cash Transfer Program for Education to include refugees as beneficiaries after the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Turkey utilized these transfer payments to combat the low schooling rates of Syrian refugees living in Turkey, with only 60% of Syrian refugee children attending school. By utilizing cash-based transfer payments, the Turkish government has incentivized education among groups that are traditionally most at risk to drop out.

Original Enactment

The Turkish government originally enacted the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education Program in order to assist “vulnerable families living in Turkey.” The average beneficiary in 2003 received payments per-child in Turkish Lira that are equal to approximately $48 in 2022. Although the original program did not change overall dropout rates, it was successful in increasing school enrollment.

Refugee Adaptation

In 2017, the program expanded to alleviate growing concerns regarding the safety and health care of refugees in Turkey, of which the vast majority are Syrian-born. As a result of EU, Norwegian and U.S. aid, UNICEF helped Turkey expand its CCTE program to include over 695,000 refugee children attending school in Turkey. Currently, 3.7 million Syrian refugees reside in Turkey, 98% of them living outside the camps.

Child Protection Component

On top of cash transfers, the enhanced version of CCTE includes a “child protection component,” according to the American Institutes for Research (AIR) report. This should provide outreach support teams to families that have children at risk of dropping out or becoming chronically absent. AIR reports found that Turkish provinces with outreach support teams experienced higher rates of school attendance from 2017-2020. However, there were many areas in which outreach support teams were also understaffed and under-resourced.

COVID-19 Education Cash Transfer

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCTE not only stayed operational, but also enhanced its programs with additional COVID-related funding. EU funding during COVID-19 has expanded the program to include single payments enacted to help offset pandemic related costs. EU provided €4.5 million to the CCTE budget, with one-time payments given to over half a million beneficiaries, according to Global Compact on Refugees.

Similar Programs Elsewhere

Strategies utilized in Turkey’s CCTE method of cash transfer payments have been utilized in other areas of the world with equally successful outcomes. For example, Brazil’s Bolsa Família program is a cash transfer program in which beneficiaries are required to attend school and receive regular health check-ups. Originally enacted in 2003, the Brazilian government adopted the Bolsa Família program in order to ensure that pandemic school closures do not cause school dropout and child labor rates to rise.

Program Effects

The CCTE assisted in funding education for almost 1 million refugee children in Turkey. Outreach social worker teams have assisted over 100,000 children in order to ensure that they stay in school and any get care that they might need, according to Global Compact on Refugees. However, the CCTE is completely funded by external support in the form of international aid. Although the Turkish education system has successfully educated almost a million refugee children, the future of CCTE and many programs like it rely on aid from the international community.

Salvatore Brancato
Photo: Flickr

Inflation in Turkey
Turkey is one of many countries that the consecutive crises the world is facing, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have affected. Each crisis has its consequences on Turkey’s economy. The Turkish government has also taken actions that have led to the devaluation of the lira, which has contributed to rising inflation rates in Turkey. In fact, Turkey’s inflation rate for the month of May 2022 reached 73.5%, the highest rate in 24 years. Similar to other countries, inflation in Turkey sparked an increase in the prices of basic resources, leading to a significant impact on the impoverished. These circumstances force the government to implement reforms to protect Turkey’s most vulnerable people.

Causes of the Inflation in Turkey

Even before the coronavirus outbreak and the war in Europe, inflation in Turkey was slowly taking place as the state grappled with significant debt amid the Turkish lira progressively losing its value. The citizens of Turkey consider the Turkish president responsible for the degradation of the nation’s economic situation, given that he insists on keeping interest rates low, according to the New York Times.

The onset of COVID-19 led to further degradation of the economic situation in Turkey due to the disruption in the supply chain. However, Turkey successfully managed this crisis and stood among the few countries noting a positive growth rate for the year 2020.

On the other hand, the recent war between Russia and Ukraine had a serious impact on the Turkish economy. Turkey has important economic ties with both countries and sees its economy affected not only by the increase in the price of energy products but also by the impact this crisis has on agricultural trade, tourism and construction projects in which Turkey is involved.

Poverty and Inflation

The unconventional strategies that the Turkish president adopted, in addition to the two major crises the world now faces, strongly impact inflation in Turkey. Unfortunately, the rise in the prices of food and energy affects low-income households most, according to the World Bank.

A poll indicates that in May 2021, just 53.6% of the Turkish population could meet their basic needs. High inflation and the devaluation of the Turkish lira are “fast eroding the purchasing power of the minimum wage, public-sector salaries and pensions.” In fact, prices are skyrocketing. Electricity bills are reaching unprecedented cost levels and the price of a kilogram of flour has doubled in less than four months, dramatically rising from 110 lira in January 2022 to 220 lira in April 2022, The Guardian reported. Inflation also harshly impacts farmers as they struggle to keep up with large industrial corporations, “with the prices of agricultural producers falling well behind those of industrial producers,” leading to decreased revenues.

Solutions

The methods of the Turkish President Erdoğan, in the form of lowering interest rates, have not been effective in reducing inflation in Turkey. In fact, economic experts consider Erdoğan’s strategy economically unorthodox.

Nevertheless, to ease the economic situation for citizens, in February 2022, the Turkish government decided to address rising inflation by reducing the value-added tax (VAT) on basic food items from 8% to 1%. In March 2022, the government reduced the VAT on a number of other essential products too. In agriculture, the government reduced VAT “on all kinds of certified seed, seedling and sapling deliveries” to 1%. The government also reduced the VAT on certain hygiene products from 18% to 8%.

In addition, in 2021, the government provided the most impoverished with energy bill subsidies to the value of $12.2 billion. The government is thus aiming to support 50% of the price of natural gas and 25% of the price of electricity. In December 2021, the government also rose the minimum wage by 50% to help struggling citizens enduring the impacts of high inflation rates.

Looking Ahead

With a government following unusual economic policies and global crises affecting the proper functioning of the economy, inflation in Turkey continues increasing, exacerbating situations of poverty. Despite all that, Turkey has a strong economy capable of exporting large quantities of diverse products, which helped the nation surpass many challenges in the past. With the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, the country can fully reopen its doors to tourists, which will also give the nation an economic boost during this crisis.

– Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in Turkey
Turkey has the largest refugee population in the world, hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and about 320,000 refugees from other countries. With mass amounts of people migrating to Turkey, there are several complications that must be accounted for, one being the issue of accessible education for those entering the country. Listed below are three NGOs in Turkey that have been helping refugees and local students access educational resources.

Darussafaka Society

Five young male scholars founded the Darussafaka Society in 1863 with the aim of providing quality education and resources to those in need. The Darussafaka Society provides scholarships and academic opportunities to children in need of financial aid or children who have lost a parent. Each year, 120 students receive opportunities from the Darussafaka Society. Its aim is to present equality of opportunity in education to its students, even though its students do not come from financially stable households. Darussafaka alumni have found successful careers in both the public and private sectors in Turkey. Many others have taken the opportunity to study and work abroad. As the Darussafaka Society boasts more than 155 years of experience, it is currently working to provide online learning options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including international programs, through a virtual format.

Turkish Educational Foundation

The Turkish Educational Foundation (TEF) is one of the oldest educational philanthropic NGOs in Turkey, as it has been in service for about 51 years. Unique to the other NGOs, TEF is based in Berkeley, CA, allowing it to have more international connections and resources than foundations solely based in Turkey. TEF’s primary objective is to provide accessible education to those in need regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Each year, TEF supports 1,000 Turkish students with their programs. It offers several unique programs for international volunteers including a Youth Group which works to fundraise and communicate their message, and an English Learning Program where students can learn from English-speaking volunteers from around the world. TEF is currently working with its Youth Group to maintain the program’s success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via virtual fundraisers and events.

The Imece Initiative

The Imece Initiative, one of the most prominent NGOs in Turkey, has been working since 2014 to provide education services specifically to Syrian refugees in Turkey. One of the Imece Initiative’s primary beliefs is that education should not undergo distribution based on a child’s ethnic background, but that education should be accessible to everyone. “We wanted to create a community free of political and religious considerations,” stated founder Ali Güray Yalvaçlı. “To give the opportunity for anyone, regardless of their background, to contribute with their skills and time to help those in need.” One of its most notable projects is The Solar Age Project, which supports women refugees in Turkey by teaching them life skills that help them in finding employment once they undergo establishment in the country.

With organizations like these, it is easy to see that there are lots of opportunities for both refugee and native students in Turkey to receive the best education possible. Though it can be easy to lose oneself in the negative effects of poverty in the world, organizations like the ones introduced above provide hope for a better future of education for all.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Children in Turkey
Approximately 5.6 million children under age 15 in Turkey live in poverty. To combat that dire statistic, there are several Turkish non-governmental organizations (NGOs) empowering children in Turkey despite their poverty and their refugee status.

A large percentage of those in poverty are Turkey’s significant Syrian refugee population. With around 3.6 million Syrian refugees, Turkey hosts the world’s largest Syrian refugee population. More than 71% of Syrian refugees live in moderate or extreme poverty. Further, about 50% of  Syrian refugees living in Turkey are under 18 years old.

Luckily, several organizations target these Syrian refugees and other impoverished Turkish children to empower them to succeed in gaining the education, skills and confidence they need to thrive as Turkish adults. Here are overviews of three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) empowering children in Turkey.

Darussafaka Society

Founded in 1863, Darussafaka Society initially sought to provide equal educational opportunities for talented and impoverished Turkish children who had lost their fathers. The Society supports fifth graders through high school seniors who qualify with an entrance exam at Darussafaka schools. In 2012, the Society broadened its mission to include children who lost mothers as well as children who lost their fathers.

The Darussafaka Society provides a full scholarship and board to Darussafaka boarding schools. On top of fully-covered tuition and board, the Darussafaka Society covers the costs of clothing, food and other living accommodations to support qualified students as well as their guardians.

Today, 1,000 children in Turkey benefit from the Darussafaka Society. Darussafaka schools and the Darussafaka Society open doors to a world-class education. Darussafaka alumni include some of Turkey’s renowned mathematicians, artists, entertainers, financiers and government officials. Also, the schools take no state funding, truly reflecting equal opportunity for education.

Lab4Future

In 2020, Telecoms Sans Frontiere launched Lab4Future for Syrian refugee children in Gaziantep. The program offers free workshops on basic digital literacy for students ages 6 to 17. Through the workshops that Labs4Future provided, refugee children gain the basic knowledge to enter schools and acclimated to Turkish society. Each workshop focuses on different skills and opens up more opportunities for the children.

Lab4Future recognizes the trauma and exploitation refugees face; therefore, its approach centers on the well-being and comfort of the children, not only their education. It promotes self-determination and critical thinking while simultaneously offering four workshops: Computing and Internet, Programming and Robotics and Electricity and Fabrication.

The Computing and Internet workshop covers the basic information necessary to use and understand computers and tablets, such as emailing, surfing the internet or interpreting fake news. The Programming and Robotics workshop aims to introduce programming in an engaging way. Meanwhile, the Electricity workshop teaches basic principles of circuitry and allows students to apply experiments to real-world situations and the Fabrication workshop provides students access to digital fabrication tools.

Association in Support of Contemporary Living

The Association in Support of Contemporary Living, the third of the featured NGOs empowering children in Turkey, focuses on financial support for quality education. This organization raises money to fund a wide variety of scholarships and grants to support children, youth and university-age adults. During the past 30 years, the Association in Support of Contemporary Living has funded over 37,000 scholarships for university students and almost 90,000 scholarships for girls in secondary school and high school. Importantly, the scholarships for girls support gender equity which, in turn, contributes to eliminating poverty in Turkey.

Beyond direct financial support, the Association in Support of Contemporary Living has built two high schools, six preschools, 32 village schools and one university education center. This is the much-needed educational infrastructure for students in poverty. While the Association for Contemporary Living has created numerous other supports, just these few examples reflect the immense positive impact this organization has on Turkish youth.

Empowering Children in Turkey

Globally, children face the catastrophic consequences of the adult world, and poverty remains one of those catastrophes. In Turkey, poverty for children is a significant issue, especially for refugees fleeing the circumstances of their home countries. Organizations including the three NGOs featured above provide significant support for the children living in poverty. Ultimately, they also support a pathway for students to become more capable individuals in modern society.

Though these NGOs provide essential resources and basic skills to support individuals, the fight to end poverty and improve children’s lives must come with enormous change, such as advocacy for governmental policy changes that further combat poverty and ensure education. However, these three NGOs empowering children in Turkey lay the groundwork to advocate for change and positively impact people’s lives.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Turkey
Conditions seemed to improve for the disadvantaged in Turkey for a decade-long period through the early 2000s. When first elected, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan purported to lift the country out of the severe economic recession in progress at the time. Unemployment and poverty rates plummeted until 2013 when civil unrest roiled after the Turkish government’s violent response to the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. Foreign investments in Turkish government bonds fell from 25% in May 2013 to 5% by 2020. Now, Turkey is once again experiencing a poverty crisis. Here are five facts about poverty in Turkey.

5 Facts About Poverty in Turkey

  1. Turkey has been in a financial crisis since 2018. The Turkish lira is devaluing, worth only $0.12 to the U.S. dollar and $0.10 to the euro. The rate of inflation reached 17.53% in July 2021. This means that along with many Turks losing their jobs, they must grapple with the rapidly growing costs of basic necessities. Food inflation alone has increased by 20% since 2020.
  2. COVID-19 is exacerbating poverty in Turkey. About 17 million people out of a population of 81 million lived below the poverty line in 2019. Now, the poverty rate has increased to about 12%. Many Turks are struggling to find employment and cannot pay for accommodation or electricity. These conditions have additionally prevented children from continuing education remotely.
  3. Turks are finding new ways to secure themselves in an unpredictable economic environment. Investments in cryptocurrency, stocks, gold and foreign currency are gaining traction among Turkish people. Many fear losing their savings if they do not take such actions. However, even these methods may be at risk of destabilizing as Turkey’s economic crisis progresses.
  4. It is increasingly difficult for the Turkish government to accept Syrian refugees. This is largely due to the continuing economic crisis and lessening support for Syrian immigration from citizens. The European Union assisted 1.6 million of the most vulnerable refugees through a program called Emergency Social Safety Net. Each family received monthly cash transfers of 120 Turkish lira for each family member. This has also helped the Turkish government manage struggling refugees. Poverty in Turkey is impacting the country’s ability to serve as a safe location for Syrian refugees.
  5. The World Bank is taking steps to respond to increasing poverty rates. In the fiscal year 2020, the World Bank established the Safer Schooling and Distance Education Project, providing $160 million worth of aid. Two new programs added in 2021 include the Emergency Firm Support Project, worth $300 million in aid, and Rapid Support for Micro and Small Enterprises During COVID-19, worth $500 million. The programs aim to preserve jobs for the Turkish people. So far, this fiscal year, the World Bank has given Turkey $1.5 billion in assistance. Many other World Bank projects will continue to mitigate poverty in Turkey.

Looking Ahead

The state of poverty in Turkey is in flux. The country continues to struggle with an economic and refugee crisis in the midst of a pandemic. With the support of the European Union and the World Bank, however, Turkish people in need will have the ability to combat poverty.

– Safira Schiowitz
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters in TurkeyThe year 2021 is setting records in extreme heat and droughts, and Turkey is currently facing its worst heatwave in 30 years. On July 28, 2021, wildfires began to spread across the southwest coastline of Turkey. A total of 156 destructive blazes erupted and killed nine people, during these natural disasters in Turkey. The strong winds, low humidity and temperatures above 204 degrees Fahrenheit helped spread the fires quickly and made it extremely difficult to work towards putting out the fires. According to the Mugla municipality, wildfires have already affected more than 230,000 acres in Turkey.

Under Fire

Disputes have emerged as to whether or not Turkey’s government was prepared to handle such natural disasters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is receiving criticism for not purchasing properly equipped firefighting planes despite knowing that Turkey often faces wildfires.

The fires began in mountainous southwest Turkey, meaning ground intervention was not possible. Despite the Turkish Aeronautical Association containing previous fires with planes, the government claimed to have no water-dropping planes in inventory.

Floods Follow Fire

Changing weather is causing more extreme environmental events throughout the world, and Turkey is facing several of these disasters. By August 9, 2021, heavy rainfall helped put out all but two fires. Just days after, starting August 11, 2021, Turkey faced flash floods that swept through the Black Sea Coast. With a current death toll of 77 and 47 people still missing, the torrents of water and debris are devastating from these Natural DIsasters in Turkey.

The most heavily hit area is Kastamonu province, where apartment buildings experienced destruction after the Ezine river burst its banks. Additionally, the floods collapsed buildings, destroyed bridges, clogged the streets and cut the power supply. Over 1,700 people were evacuated, with boats and helicopters rescuing many citizens.

Natural Disasters and Poverty

There is a clear connection between natural disasters and poverty; natural disasters disproportionately affect poor people. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Turkey’s poverty rate rose above 12%, meaning that these natural disasters will heavily affect many people. Unfortunately, the Turkish government did little to deal with the economic impact of COVID-19, and the lack of support contributed to rising poverty levels.

When facing poverty, any amount of impact on assets or consumption levels is a threat. Often, those facing poverty have to accept living in more risky areas due to affordability, which can lead to devastating outcomes during natural disasters. Additionally, people in low-income countries have less infrastructure to protect them.

A World Bank report found that the impact of extreme weather events on poverty is even more devastating than previously thought. Each year, natural disasters cause consumption losses of $520 billion and push 26 million people into poverty.

Often, events like these increase the damage to buildings, infrastructure and agriculture. These losses only represent the losses of those wealthy enough to lose something, and they fail to show the magnitude that the world’s poor suffer. With this idea in mind, the World Bank warns that natural disasters are a huge impediment to ending global poverty, and it is essential that poor people receive social and financial protection from unavoidable disasters.

The Good News

Poland sent firefighters, police officers and equipment to Turkey in order to help deal with the fires and flooding. Additionally, hundreds of Turkish volunteers banded together to help fight the fire. Volunteers formed a human chain to help carry equipment to firefighters and even put out a hillside fire with instruction from fire crews.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds has set up a Wildfire Relief Fund in order to provide support during the wildfires in Turkey. This support includes provisions of food and emergency aid to help those affected.

– Jacqueline Zembek
Photo: Flickr

Economic Violence Against Women in Turkey On March 20, 2021, Turkey announced its withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty focused on combatting violence against women. Violence against women is a significant problem in Turkish society. Violence against women takes many forms, but economic violence against women in Turkey is one type of violence that is particularly problematic for poverty reduction.

Defining Economic Violence

Also known as economic abuse, economic violence against women is a form of violence where women have no financial autonomy. Another person, often a husband or father, controls the women’s monetary resources and leaves her in a state of dependency. The Istanbul Convention includes economic violence in both its definitions of violence against women and domestic violence. Examples of economic violence against women include:

  • Barring women from accessing work and educational opportunities.
  • Preventing women from accessing the necessary funds for resources such as food.
  • Excluding women from decisions about their household’s income.

Economic Violence Against Women in Turkey

Economic violence is an issue many women face in Turkey. Women generally complete a disproportionately high amount of their households’ domestic work. According to the United Nations, Turkish women spend approximately “19.2% of their time” on wageless domestic work in contrast to the 3.7% of the time that men spend on unpaid domestic work. Placing women in a position where they spend so much time on unpaid work makes women likely to become dependent on male family members and susceptible to economic violence.

Social expectations and perceptions of the roles of men and women play an important part in economic violence against women in Turkey. Perceptions of women as performers of domestic work and men as laborers create an expectation for women to engage in unpaid labor, making them susceptible to economic violence. When Turkish women are members of the workforce, which only 35% of Turkish women currently are, they accept the seizure of their income by their husbands due to cultural norms of male “dominance in the domestic environment.”

Working to End Economic Violence Against Women

Ending economic violence against women is critical to ending other forms of violence against women. While exposure to economic violence does not guarantee that women will experience other forms of violence, dependency on a male family member or partner makes women more susceptible to other forms of abuse from that person.

One significant challenge to preventing economic violence against women in Turkey is that the country currently lacks adequate systems to monitor most aspects of its progress toward Sustainable Development Goals concerning gender equality. Consequently, data about Turkish women is incomplete, which makes it challenging to determine the extent of the economic violence against women in Turkey.

With the data that is currently available, researchers have identified factors that reduce rates of economic violence against women. One critical factor is education. Research shows that men with high levels of education are less likely to perpetrate economic violence against their wives or female partners than less-educated men. Factors such as expanding employment opportunities for women and preventing substance abuse among men are also associated with lower rates of economic violence against women.

Organizational Efforts to Economically Empower Turkish Women

Several organizations focus on improving Turkish women’s economic rights. The International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) is one of these organizations. BPW Turkey implements several programs in Turkey to improve economic opportunities for women. Its Pace to Employment and Assurance for a Respectable Life (PEARL) program teaches women skills they need to be financially independent. Furthermore, BPW Turkey’s Civil Initiative Strategic Research Center (SISAM) improves awareness and understanding of the U.N. Women’s Empowerment Principles and provides educational programming on these principles to entities such as local governments and human resources staff.

Economic violence against women in Turkey is an ongoing issue, but it is not unpreventable. Working with both men and women can help women obtain and maintain autonomy over financial resources and break the cycle of violence against women.

Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr