Turkey under the monopoly of men aged above 55, renowned social entrepreneur says
ISTANBUL – Ayşe ArmanAll areas in Turkey are under the “monopoly” of men above the age of 55, with women and youth being pushed back into the background, which is why society “cannot improve itself,” İbrahim Betil, the former head of the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey (TEGV) and the founder of the Community Volunteers Foundation (TOG), said in an exclusive interview.
“Politics, media, commerce, industry, banking, whole business world…All of them are in the monopoly of men aged above 55. Women and youth are just a cog in the machine. Look at the parliament, the average age is above 55. Men above age 55 have seized this society! This is why it cannot improve!” Betil said.
The social entrepreneur has been closely involved in educational and civic society activities in Turkey by personally taking an active role in the establishment of many NGOs. He further noted that although the country had a big economy, how long it would last was not known.
“Advancement of women [in their careers] is not allowed after a certain point. If you talk about the youth, they graduate from university, and then they are unemployed for at least six months. There is no trust in the youth,” Betil said, pointing out to the definition of “youth” in the dictionary of the Turkish Language Institution (TDK).
“Even if it is not said openly, it [the dictionary] defines it as ‘idiot!’ It says things like ‘Their brains have not developed enough.’ Very awful! We, after establishing the Community Volunteers Foundation [TOG], have completely trusted the youth. We have never imposed projects upon them. We have told them, ‘You develop [the projects], you find the resources, and we’ll support you!’ They have considered me crazy for giving so much support to the youth!” Betil noted.
Asked what he took the most pride in, Betil said it was the point that TOG had come to. Established in 2002, TOG is a change and transformation project designed to translate the youth’s energy into social benefit.
“While establishing this foundation, some people from my own environment told me, ‘You are reorganizing the youth! You will get into trouble!’ Yes, I did reorganize the youth. And good that I have done so! It has become Turkey’s biggest youth foundation. More than 60,000 youth in 129 universities are undertaking close to 2,000 projects every year [thanks to TOG]. It touches the lives of more than 700,000 people. When we give authority to the youth, apart from believing in what can be done, to prove this gives me pride,” Betil said.