Source: Annual Report 2014

The Bernard van Leer Foundation’s strategy for Turkey addresses two goals:

A national reduction in violence in families with children 0 to 8 years of age

Estimates suggest the number of children aged 0 to 8 who witness violence in the family in Turkey is between 570,000 and 2.9 million. This type of violence is more likely to occur when parents have low levels of education and/or low levels of income. In addition to being witnesses, young children also experience family violence directly, as victims of harsh disciplinary practices and various other forms of abuse. Comprehensive statistics do not exist in Turkey, but individual studies suggest it is widely prevalent. One study of 16,000 children aged 4 to 12 found that 35% had experienced physical abuse.

Our strategy to address this issue is premised on the understanding that social norms are the main driver of the problem. For example, 25% of women aged from 15 to 49 years of age believe that a husband/partner is justified in beating his wife/partner under certain circumstances. At the same time, there is an increasing public debate about family violence, interest among Turkish NGOs and a formidable women’s movement. A major challenge is to find a positive way to engage men as allies, notably fathers and imams.

A reduction in child morbidity and malnutrition among children 0 to 6 years of age whose families subsist as seasonal migrant workers

Every spring, thousands of the poorest families in Turkey, mostly living in the east and southeast, start a process of migration to various agricultural areas in the west, south and north where they work as migrant farm workers for private landowners.

Typically poor and with low levels of education, seasonal migrants are one of the most disadvantaged groups in Turkey. They are not protected by labour laws and are often not paid a living wage. We estimate that 125,000 children migrate seasonally with their families, and their health suffers enormously. BvLF-funded research across nine camps found that young children were almost always sick and diarrhoea was rampant. These problems are rooted in poor physical conditions.

The European Union and the Office of the Turkish Prime Minister have both recently drawn attention to this situation, and BvLF can draw on experiences in other middle-income countries that deal with internal agricultural migration such as Mexico and Brazil.

Highlights from 2014

  • The Deputy Minister of Family and Social Policies backed a Foundation-supported national survey on domestic violence against children, launched with widespread media coverage.

    Helping policymakers and practitioners fight domestic violence against children in Turkey through better information 

    In May 2014, CNN Türk and national Turkish news channel NTV were among media outlets covering a conference supported by the Bernard van Leer Foundation on domestic violence against young children. The conference – attended by more than 200 academics, ngo representatives and public officials – was an unusual moment of visibility for an issue about which there is not much information or public awareness in Turkey.

    Conference domestic violence against children - TurkeyThe conference launched a national survey on domestic violence against children aged 0–8, conducted by Foundation partners Boğaziçi University, the Humanist Bureau and Frekans Research. How prevalent is domestic violence against children? What forms does it take? And what circumstances lead to the use of violence? The research team was supported by an advisory panel of ten experts coordinated by the Humanist Bureau.

    ‘The Foundation’s strategy was clear from the beginning: there is a need for baseline data on domestic violence against children. The need was not only to understand the frequency of violence, but to relate findings to existing policies,’ says Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Turkey Representative for the Foundation. Information and visibility are only part of the problem, though. Another challenge is that the mechanisms for preventing and responding to violence against children in Turkey are fragmented and difficult to navigate.

    ‘The child protection system in Turkey has a lot of different actors with different mandates,’ says Bürge Akbulut of the Humanist Bureau. ‘There’s no one institution that knows the whole system. This means, for example, that a teacher who thinks one of her students is being abused might not know who to report it to. Or if she does, she doesn’t know what will happen afterwards.’

    The Foundation then supported the Humanist Bureau to prepare a legislative and administrative map of mechanisms around domestic violence against children in Turkey. ‘The map has enabled us to understand missing links and loopholes on this issue,’ says Yiğit Aksakoğlu. ‘I hope it will contribute to a better national data collection system on domestic violence against children, which in turn will contribute to evidence-based policymaking and assessment in Turkey.’

    Dr Askin Asan, the then Deputy Minister of Family and Social Policies, appreciates the initiative: ‘We know that there are “broken links” in our system. This research and map are good contributions to identify these links and improve our system.’

    In 2015, the Foundation and the Humanist Bureau will officially launch the map – which was presented in draft form at the 2014 conference – and use it to engage practitioners and local authorities, sharing their feedback with the Ministry of Family and Social Policies.

Programme strategy

Download a summary of our Turkey strategy, outlining how we are approaching the goals summarised above, and a shorter two-page handout.


Do you have comments on our goals in Turkey? Please contact our Programme Officer for Turkey, Yigit Aksakoglu: yigit.aksakoglu@bvleerf.nl

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