Everywhere you look, on TV, in print, online… Turkey’s resurgence as a regional and economic power is making headlines. Last October’s edition of The Economist included a special report on Turkey, detailing the successful strides the country has made in the last decade and also the unresolved issues that still need to be addressed.

One of these issues is the economic and social underdevelopment in the southeastern part of the country. Income per person is less than half that found in some western areas.* Agriculture is the main industry in the southeast, so income is primarily derived from farming. The southeast also lacks the same levels of educational opportunity of other regions. In 2007 there was 1 teacher for every 30.1 school students in southeastern Turkey, compared to 19.2 in the western, Aegean coasts region.** This also leads to higher levels of illiteracy which is problematic throughout the entire country, especially for women. Women make up 84 percent of those who are older than 15 years of age and who do not know how to read or write.*** Disproportionate levels of development for women prevent them from having the same opportunities that many men have.

HasNa decided a decade ago—upon the advice of experts from Turkey—that one of the best ways we could help in the country was to bring people together from diverse backgrounds and train them in areas that help them acquire important skills.

HasNa has implemented 18 programs in the last decade focused on teaching farmers agricultural skills to help them increase their productivity and overall income. HasNa has also implemented 5 microbusiness programs for women to empower them to become productive members of society. All of our programs have also focused heavily on teaching communication skills to help individuals develop positive relationships within their communities.

The Economist proposes some important political measures to address the unresolved issues in Turkey. But what HasNa has found with experience, is that it is most important to transform peoples’ perceptions, allowing them to work peacefully with others, and to help people acquire skills, creating better opportunities for them to provide for themselves and their families. Indeed, these are long term goals and change does not occur overnight. We know that with continued effort, substantial progress can be made.

To read more about HasNa’s past agricultural programs click here

To read more about HasNa’s past microbusiness programs for women click here

By Ryan Olivett