Citibank’s micro entrepreneur awards
According to Forbes magazine, Turkey occupies the seventh place on the list of dollar billionaires in the world and the second place after Germany in Europe.
While a constant rise in the number of dollar billionaires is recorded, Turkey, from the point of income gap is the co-champion in the world together with Mexico.
According to Turkish Statistical Institute’s (TÜİK) latest data, the average income of the top income bracket is eight times the average of the lowest income group.
While the high-income group gets a share of 47 percent of the total income, the share of the low income group stays at 5.8 percent.
To understand the severity of the income gap, it is possible to cite such an example: Out of Turkey’s total population, 86 percent do not have enough income to have a one-week vacation.
The reason I am drawing this picture is to make it better understood why in such a country “micro credit” is so important.
Micro credits in Turkey are given by the Turkey Prodigality Prevention Association (TİSVA) set up by Aziz Akgül, Ph.D., which practices the Grameen Bank model of Mohammad Yunus. TİSVA and partners give micro credits especially to women.
Citibank, which is among the partners of TİSVA, has been organizing the “Micro Entrepreneurship Awards” for six years. For the Citi awards, 700 female entrepreneurs applied for the first year’s competition; this year that figure has reached 3,650.
Being one of the judges of the Citibank jury this year to determine the awards for the 30 finalist female entrepreneurs, I have to admit that I was extremely moved by the “micro credit stories” I heard.
The life struggles of each of these women who support their families alone, who have become entrepreneurs so that their children will have a better education can make a separate book.
Some of these women coming from all sides of Turkey (Bursa, Rize, Çorum, Eskişehir, Kocaeli, Sakarya, Kahramanmaraş, Batman, Diyarbakır and Mardin) are illiterate; some are not.
Most of them had the courage to set up a business with only 500-Turkish Lira or 700-lira loans. With such little amounts of money, lives have changed in Turkey.
The entrepreneur from Kahramanmaraş, Kezban Taşyürek, who won the first prize in the “financial achievement” category, for example, has opened a tailor shop because she knew how to sew. She was earning 400 liras a month while she was working for somebody else; now her monthly income is 2,000 liras and she has hired two people.
Another entrepreneur is 21-year-old Özlem Koyuncuoğlu from Mardin’s Kızıltepe, and her story brought the judges including me to the point of crying.
The oldest in a 12-child family, Koyuncuoğlu borrowed 300 liras of micro credit to start animal husbandry.
She alone set up a barn on the ground floor of their house to raise sheep and goats. She almost gave up on her life to look after her two handicapped siblings and for the rest of the others to go to school.
Koyuncuoğlu, who came first in Citibank’s “individual struggle” category, has been able to raise her monthly income to 900 liras. The young girl dreams of owning a farm in the future. Since she has been working in the fields since she was 8, she is not completely literate.
As Minister of Family and Social Policies Fatma Şahin, who attended Citibank’s micro credit award ceremony said, touching one woman’s life means touching the life of the family, the children and even the society.
Another benefit of micro credit is this: In Turkey, which ranks at the lowest place in the “Gender Gap” report of World Economic Forum, women are learning that it is possible to be able to be self-sufficient and to contribute to the economy.