Adım Adım Anadolu

Adım Adım Anadolu

The eggs missed their target. No damage was done, I was unharmed and the Trabzon Adım Adım Anadolu (Step by Step Anadolu - a series of discussions on gender equality and development around Turkey) event proceeded successfully.

It is unfortunate that the angry young women who caused the disruption were unable to stay. They would have heard impressive stories of women entrepreneurs striking out alone or with a few friends to start their own businesses and gain independence and confidence as a result. They would have heard about the aspirations these women had for their daughters to have it easier than they did. They would have heard how their husbands, brothers and sons overcame initial skepticism to understand why giving women the same economic opportunities as men was the right and smart thing to do.

The Adım Adım Anadolu series of discussions held all around Turkey aims to engage women and men across the country in a discussion about what needs to be done for Turkey’s women to achieve equal economic opportunities. This could be the most important economic policy choice of the coming decade. Research from the World Bank shows the 5 percent increase in the participation of females in the labor force, rising from 23.6 percent in 2006 to 28.8 percent in 2011, helped increase household incomes by 8 percent and reduced poverty by 15 percentage points. The OECD calculates that an overall increase in labor force participation by 5 percent, up from 55 percent to 60 percent, by 2030 would raise annual growth by 0.6 percent and lift GDP by 25 percent above the baseline over the 2012-30 horizon. If the recent upward trend in labor force participation continues, Turkey is about to reap a big economic dividend.

But the women entrepreneurs in Trabzon and the many women in the audience who came to tell their own story also reminded us that this benign future is far from assured. Women need better access to childcare and more flexible work arrangements to make the transition to the work world. Women need training and start-up capital – the efforts of İŞKUR and KOSGEB notwithstanding.

Toward the end of the Trabzon event, we all watched a film about a women’s cooperative in a village. My favorite line in the movie comes when the men ask “how come our women leave their homes to look after themselves?” And the women answer “why not?” and go ahead and do it. Eventually their husbands come to realize that the whole village benefits from better facilities and their households and families from wives and mothers who contribute their own income and whose smiles are full of joy and confidence.

I wish the students had saved their eggs and instead heard these stories with us. I hope they come back when the next Adım Adım Anadolu event takes place and join us.

*Martin Raiser is a Turkey country director for the World Bank.