Global Reach: Grantee Partners

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Genc Hayat Foundation (Youth Lives Foundation, YLF)


The Turkish education system requires students to make decisions about their career as early as age 14. After taking a series of very competitive placement exams, their scores delineate options of high schools they can choose to attend (science, social science, religious, or vocational). Lack of equal and high quality education is a serious challenge; students from a lower socio-economic status (SES) are usually at a great disadvantage and tend to score much lower, thus eliminating schools that are technically oriented. High school attendance often indicates performance on a youth’s university entrance, which determines their choice for university and their major – and thus, their future career paths. As such, the time of middle school is a very critical point in a young person’s life.

Enrollment of girls in technical/STEM related high schools is low compared to boys. Women comprise 30% of total university enrollment in STEM and make up only 18% of the technology sector, while 67% are in human health and social services . There are some private STEM courses for children and youth in Istanbul that focus on coding and robotics, yet these are only for those who can afford them. In this context, programs that increase access of such programs for youth from lower SES is critically important to providing an equal opportunity as well as promoting greater gender equality in STEM education and careers.

STEM will be particularly critical at the onset of ‘Industry 4.0’. The development of industry can be analyzed in four trends. 1.0 refers to mechanization, 2.0 to mass production, 3.0 to automation and 4.0 to “the internet of things and services” or industrial automation. In 4.0, jobs will become more STEM related (computer engineering/programming /software development) and existing jobs will require at least basic knowledge. In these fields, women are considered inferior compared to their male counterparts, which results in women being discouraged from following a career path in the tech sector and ending up in “traditionally female” jobs usually in the service sector. Their underrepresentation acts to confirm prejudices and creates a never-ending cycle. Moreover, many other jobs will require basic tech knowledge, even if not directly related to hard sciences and technology.


Founded in 2008, Genc Hayat Foundation (Youth Lives Foundation, YLF) aims to raise awareness and support youth development, mainly those 11-18. YLF has developed major programs addressing child labor prevention, youth employability, academic support, psychosocial support and social cohesion. Programs and extensive research supports youth in getting to know themselves and exposing their potential, and incorporating tolerance and a culture of empathy. In 2016 alone, YLF worked with 4,600 students and 700 teachers from schools across Turkey. While tackling youth employment and promoting peaceful co-existence, YLF successfully established a close working relationship with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Their child labor prevention program has grown and diversified over 4 years, with project locations in the Black Sea and Southeastern regions. YLF participated in the Capacity Development Program designed by International Medical Corps, and now implements empowerment programs for Syrian refugees in the Istanbul district of Küçükçekmece, which has the highest number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul.

YLF brings experience, credibility and access to youth at risk and the proposed partner Kodluyoruz brings the technology-learning element. Kodluyoruz (‘We are Coding’) is a non-profit founded in 2016 that offers learning opportunities in technology, coding, robotics and other tech areas for socio-economically disadvantaged youth in Turkey. Both organizations have strong leadership. Kodluyoruz, while young, is off to a very good start with funding from organizations like Bosch et al. They are female-led, and while their emphasis is not only to promote coding for girls, they have a very strong gender lens and mission.

Current Grant

EMpower’s 1st grant to Youth Lives Foundation (in cooperation with ‘Kodluyoruz’ NGO) will help to increase technical and soft skill acquisition for 315 youth from lower economic backgrounds, focusing particularly on girls, by offering a coding training program and mainstreaming gender awareness to increase self-esteem in tech-related areas; ultimately encouraging girls to shape their futures according to their interests and potential, not by their gender.

You can support our work with Genc Hayat Foundation (Youth Lives Foundation, YLF) and our other grantee partners.

Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.