“Men and women have equal rights and the State is responsible to implement these rights. No privilege shall be granted to any individual, family, group or class.” This is what article number 10 of the Turkish constitution asserts.
Although women on paper are entitled with the same rights as men, very often the society’s customs prevent them to exercise their rights. According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2014, Turkey was ranked 125th over 130 countries in the attempt to close the gender gap between men and women. Turkey has recently implemented significant changes in order to overcome the gender inequality issue. Moreover, as a possible future member of the European Union, Turkey aims at going along with EU’s policies and one central area of improvement is education.
On the 3rd of May 2011, Turkey initiated the Project for Increasing Enrolment Rates Especially for Girls (ISEG). This project has been developed until 2013 as part of the Human Resources Development Operational Program (HRD OP) under the scope of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and it was promoted in 16 Turkish cities through activities and trainings that involved teachers, parents, and children from both primary and secondary school. The first objective of the project was increasing enrolment rates for girls in secondary education, the second was decreasing dropouts and absenteeism for girls in primary and secondary education. The results of this initiative seemed to be very encouraging. Just few months after the beginning of the project, in the cities where it was implemented, some effects were already visible: 2,800 new female enrolments to catch up education, the start of 100 small local projects with the purpose of raising awareness among the population, support and counselling towards over 3,000 young girls aimed at keeping them in school. Although the project has contributed to obtain increasing enrolments and fewer drop-outs, World Bank data from 2012 show that 60% of the male population had completed at least lower secondary school, while the percentage for female was still quite low: 39%. Turkey seems to have still a long way to achieve gender equality.
But what are other implications for low investment in female education? Research by the World Bank Development Research Group (Dollar and Gatti, 1999), states that under-investment in female human capital is not an efficient economic choice; female education raises national income and higher income also means higher gender equality in all fields, not only in the education one. As additional proof of this, it is important to mention that, according to Dollar and Gatti, secondary female attainment has a robust positive impact on economic growth, which results to be much stronger than that one for male secondary attainment.
Sometimes, the low access to education for females can also be explained by social preferences, i.e. religious orientation that in Turkey is quite strong. Therefore, it is possible that gender inequality in Turkey is not a distortion from the point of view of the welfare, meaning that the overall society may be better off when there is a gap between educational levels of women and men. However, it is a distortion in the sense that the country pays a price for not investing in girls in terms of slower growth and reduced income.
Turkey should be aware that not attempting to fill this gap by leaving behind its social preferences, negatively affects its economics growth as well as being detrimental for about 51% of its population (women population share, 2013).
Giulia Casagrande, 745