And their dads sent them to school

And their dads sent them to school

Medine Dilek Yıldırım was a 5-year-old girl when her picture was taken for the “Dad, Send Me to School” campaign 10 years ago. She was living in the village of Meydandere in the southeastern Siirt province. 

If it weren’t for the “Dad, Send Me to School” campaign, Medine would be a girl in the statistics without a name. 

In those years, official figures showed that 600,000 girls were not sent to school. 

This was a social responsibility project of daily Milliyet. I was the editor-in-chief of Milliyet when the first preparations of the project were made. I have seen, with admiration, the efforts of Hanzade Doğan Boyner. I should also cite Tijen Mergen’s and late Türkan Saylan’s efforts. 

If it weren’t for this campaign, Medine would also share the fate of hundreds of thousands of her peers in the region. She wouldn’t go to school; she would not be able to read a poem, write her name and learn arithmetic. Just like her mother… Just like hundreds of thousands of girls…

Medine’s father was not going to send her to school because there was no school in their village. While the boys of the village would make a group and go the nearest school, the girls of the village would watch them from the window. 

They would carry water, mop the floors, help with the dishes, look after their younger siblings. When they grew up a little, they would be married off. They would do the same things this time in their mother-in-law’s house. When she gave birth to a girl, she would have a silent scream … A bitter scream she would never cry out, let anybody hear…  

Medine was able to go to school by staying at one of the girls dormitories built in the project. She is now at 8th grade at the Şehit Selahattin Eşin School. She is 15-years-old and wants to be a doctor, at a medical school either in Istanbul or Ankara. 

Hanzade Doğan Boyner, when we launched the project, said, “Our dream is kids who can dream.” Now, Medine has a dream; she actually wants to go to school in the United Kingdom. 

The “Dad, Send Me to School” campaign is now carried out by the Aydın Doğan Foundation and is celebrating its 10th year. When the project was launched, the schooling rate of girls was 30 percent behind boys. Today, there is no difference in the schooling rate of boys and girls at the elementary school level. 

There are 33 girl dormitories, seven of them built by the Aydın Doğan Foundation, in service now, to change the fate of girls. 

I would like to draw your attention to Hanzade Doğan Boyner’s words, which make us clearly see the significant result the campaign has yielded:  

“We made a survey to measure the social effects created by the ‘Dad, Send Me to School’ campaign. While only 6 percent of our girls who benefitted from the campaign told us they would not continue their education and would not work, in the same region this rate for the same age group climbed to 38 percent. Girls who are staying in the dormitories and receiving scholarships, 88 percent of them, say they can go to a health clinic or hospital by themselves, among the same-age group of girls in the region where only 70 percent said they could.” 

The project not only provided education opportunities for girls, it also accomplished giving them the strength to stand up on their feet alone as individuals and challenge life. 

I would like to thank, as a person who has been involved in the project from the first day, the Aydın Doğan Foundation, those who built dormitories for this project, donated their savings and supported the work. Thank you very much.