The Turkish education system requires students to make decisions about their career as early as age 14. After taking a series of competitive placement exams, their scores delineate options of high schools they can attend (science, social science, religious, vocational). Lack of equal and high-quality education is a serious challenge; students from lower socio-economic status (SES) are usually at a great disadvantage and tend to score much lower, thus eliminating schools that are technically oriented. As high school attendance often determines performance on university entrance exams which in turn determines the choice of university and major—and thus, future career paths. As such, middle school is a very critical point in a young person’s life.
Enrollment of girls in technical/STEM-related high schools is lower than 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 only for those who can afford them. In this context, increasing access to such programs for youth from lower SES is critically important to providing equal opportunity as well as promoting greater gender equality in STEM education and careers.
STEM will be particularly critical in the onset of Industry 4.0. In 4.0, jobs will become more STEM-related (computer engineering/programming/software development) and existing jobs will require at least basic knowledge of these areas). In these fields, women traditionally are considered inferior compared to their male counterparts. This results in women being discouraged from following a career path in the tech sector and ending up in “traditionally female” jobs, often in the service sector. Their underrepresentation acts to confirm prejudices, creating 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 adolescents (11-18). YLF has developed major programmes addressing child labor prevention, youth employability, academic support, psychosocial support, and social cohesion. Programs and extensive research supports youth in getting to know themselves, exposing their potential, and incorporating tolerance and a culture of empathy in youth lives. In 2018, YLF conducted projects in nine cities with more than 3,300 children/youth and 250 family members. While tackling the obstacles of youth employment and promoting peaceful co-existence, YLF also established a close working relationship with the projects locations in the Black Sea region, Mardin, and Sanliurfa in the Southeastern region. YLF also participated in the Capacity Development Program designed by International Medical Corps and now implements empowerment programs for Syrian refugees in the Istanbul district of Kucukcekmece, which has the highest number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul.
While YLF brings experience, credibility and access to youth at risk, the proposed partner Kodluyoruz will bring the technology-learning element. Kodluyourz (meaning “We are Coding”) is a non-profit organization 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 and others. They are female-led and, while their work is not solely about promoting coding for girls, they have a very strong gender lens and mission.
EMpower’s 2nd grant to Youth Lives Foundation (in cooperation with ‘Kodluyoruz’ NGO) will help to increase technical skill and soft skill acquisition for 345 youth (ages 12-16) from lower economic backgrounds. It will focus particularly on girls, by offering a coding training programme and mainstreaming gender awareness and elements to increase self-esteem and awareness in tech-related areas, ultimately encouraging girls to shape their futures according to their interests and potential, not by their gender.
Primary Location: Istanbul
Funded Since: 2018
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