TURKEY : closing the gender gap in education
GENEVA, 25 November 2005: “It may seem surprising that
Outlining the causes, McLoughney cited poverty, with around 28% of Turks living below the poverty line. Then there is tradition, with families arguing that their mothers didn’t go to school, or claiming that education for girls is a waste of time in areas where girls are married off at an early age. Domestic labour is another stumbling block to girls’ education, with girls looking after younger siblings or taking part in cotton harvest, particularly in the south-east.
“One year ago I was in Sanliurfa,” said Mcloughney, “and the fields were full of children picking cotton – all of them girls.”Mcloughney described the Haydi Kızlar Okula! (Come on girls, let’s go to school) campaign to get all girls into the classroom. UNICEF has been working closely with the Ministry of National Education on the campaign, which was launched in 2003, and has helped an additional 114,500 girls enrol in school.
“The Prime Minister and the First Lady are committed to this campaign. Religious leaders are committed. High level leadership by provincial governors has been very apparent in the provinces where we have seen the greatest progress”.
The campaign relies on thousands of volunteers who go from house to house, armed with a booklet that provides the answers to every possible parental objection to sending girls to school. You say you are too poor to send your daughter to school? Well, the government will give you a grant to help you. You say that education is of no use to a girl? Well, she has an absolute right to go to school, and her children are far more likely to survive and thrive if she is educated.
While the results for the 2005-2006 school year are not yet confirmed, it already looks like being the best year since the campaign began, with large numbers of extra girls in the classrooms in the provinces with the biggest gender gaps.
“The fact is that everyone has heard about this campaign,” said McLoughney. “The challenge now is that the government simply can’t build schools fast enough to meet demand. And there are transport problems in mountainous areas, particularly at this time of year with the snows on their way.”
Gender parity in primary and secondary education by 2005, and at all levels of education by 2015, is the key target for ensuring the Millennium Development Goal of gender equality and the empowerment of women (MDG 3). The target is also a precursor to the goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015 (MDG 2).
Yet nearly 115 million children, the majority of them girls, remain out of primary school, according to UNICEF, the lead agency in the UN Girls’ Education Initiative.
For more information: