Source: Annual Report 2013

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.

Changing parental behaviour in Turkey

I used to yell a lot at my children, even slapped them sometimes, and still they didn’t do what I told. But when you talk, when you explain it well, the child does what you have told. You are happy and the child is happy. It is really nice.

That’s the experience of one mother after attending a workshop run by the Bilinçli Aile Sağlıklı Nesiller Projesi (Well-informed Family – Healthy Generations Project) in Beyoğlu, Turkey. The project is experimenting with various ways to change parental behaviour, including group workshops, family training, fatherhood seminars, mother– child playgroups, personal development workshops and a psychological counselling centre. The impacts are currently being evaluated by Bilgi University.

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.

Mobile learning centre for seasonal migrants’ children

Children of ten migrate with their agricultural labourer parents for seasonal work in Turkey, but are excluded from local schools. We funded the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey (TEGV) to explore how mobile learning units can reach these children.

A 2-month pilot phase took place in September–October of 2013 in the Karata district of Turkey’s south-central Adana province. During this period 503 children (244 girls, 259 boys) aged 5 to 9 attended the mobile learning centre for educational activities including arts, reading, maths, health and board games.

Broadly, the children were found to have an educational level 2–3 years below the average for their age, hence the urgency of helping them. Particularly striking improvements were observed during the pilot phase in computer skills – most of the children had never used a computer, and quickly became proficient – and in social skills such as self-confidence, relationships, communication and collaboration.

The next phase of the project will be implemented from February to June 2014 in another camp in the Karata district and is expected to reach 1125 children.

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

© 2015 Bernard van Leer Foundation | Sitemap | Disclaimer | Privacy & Cookies | Contact us | Vacancies