The Platform for Protecting Children and Their Rights, formed by some of the leading charity organizations in Turkey, held a press conference to draw attention to children’s problems, contact public authorities and offer them their projects and prospective solutions and to join their forces. The conference was hosted by Elite World Hotels Istanbul.

With its member charity organizations, including Open-door Social Responsibility Association, Family Law Association, AKUT Foundation, Infant Mental Health Association, Modern Education Foundation, Çelikel Education Foundation, Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Children’s Rights Summit and Development Association, Association for Life-time Learning and Fight Against Violence, Hayat Sende Youth Academy, Turkish Society of Psychologists, KOREV, Turkish Foundation for Children in Need (Koruncuk), and the Creative Children Association, the Platform for Protecting Children and Their Rights, as a non-political organization, aims to develop scientific solutions and projects for children’s education and poverty, mitigate risks to their lives and advocate their best interests.

One out of five children across the world is involved in child labor
Various research data collected in Turkey were also shared at the conference. According to studies, children account for 44.3% of poor individuals. Given the poverty line which is calculated with reference to 60% of average income, 16% of individuals aged under 18 are under the risk of poverty. 30.2% of all children are out of education, while the rate of married children has risen to 27.8%.

According to the “Facts About Child Labor in Turkey” report shared by DİSK-AR at the Conference on the occasion of the 23rd April Children’s, one out of five children across the world is involved in child labor, and the number of children involved in child labor in Turkey reached 893 thousand in 2012. On a global scale, 60% of the children (129 million) work in the agriculture industry. According to 2012 data contained in the same report, the number of unpaid child servants at homes has risen to 413 thousand since 2006 in Turkey. The number of children among the employed across the world is 264 million and the number of those involved in child labor is 168 million. The number of children both going to school and an employed in child labor increased by 64% up to 445 thousand between 2006 and 2012.

A committee for each subject matter

During the first meeting of the Platform, a committee for each subject matter was set up. Among these committees are: Legal Committee; Committee for Families and Alternative Families; Committee for Children Under Risk; Committee for Children’s Health; Child Education Committee; Committee for Relations with International NGOs; and Youth Committee.

Delivering the opening speech, İdil İncekara, General Secretary of the Platform and a Trustee of the Koruncuk Foundation, said “We wanted to hold this meeting on this particular date, and all the 14 Foundations aim to join their forces to find solutions to the increasing tragic problem of children disappearing and dying.”

Figen Özbek, a lawyer and Chairwoman of the Koruncuk Foundation, took the floor to comment on the Platform’s formation and goals, and shared some truly striking data to draw attention to serious problems facing children in Turkey. She said, “According to 2013 data, there are 26.414.211 children (aged between 0 and 19) living in Turkey. 1 million 649 thousand children (aged between 12 and 17) are in prison. According to the United Nations’ Poverty Index, some 6 million children in Turkey are poor. According to a recent Child Labor Study, there are 1.07 million children (aged between 6 and 14) involved in child labor in Turkey, and 50% of them are unable to go to school though they want to. In 2011, 131 children involved in child labor lost their lives. Given that the rate of child marriage in Turkey is over 30%, all these problems are too big to be solved by only one organization.” Özbek concluded, “The Platform’s biggest goal is to ensure cooperation among NGOs in an effort to solve the serious problems facing children.”

Ebrize Çeltikçi, a representative of the Children’s Rights Summit and Development Association and a member of the Education Committee, said, “Respect for children and their rights is the essence and top priority of education. Children are nearly “ground” by the sharp and inflexible rules of education. Children are omitted from education despite the fact that they are entitled to the principles of generality, equality and equal opportunity in education and to receive education anywhere.”

Prof. Bahadır Erdem, Chairman of the Family Law Association and speaking on behalf of the Legal Committee, said, “In the Turkish legal system, children are defined in three different age limits. According to the Turkish Civil Code, every individual under the age 18 is a child. The minimum age for marriage is 17, and may be 16 subject to parental consent and if granted by a court of law under extraordinary circumstances and on reasonable grounds. According to the Turkish Criminal Code, sexual abuse of an individual under the age of 15 is treated as sexual abuse of a child. According to Law No. 5395 on Protection of Children, an individual under the age of 18 is a child in need of legal protection. We must remove all these different approaches and amend both the Turkish Civil Code and Criminal Code to ensure that any individual under the age of 18 is legally considered a child.”

Dr. Nuşin Sarımurat Baydemir, representing the Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and speaking on behalf of the Committee for Families and Alternative Families, stated that they would start working with the motto “Children Need Families” and shared some noteworthy data from the study released by Gezici Research on 23rd April. According to the study, 74% of the girls in Eastern Anatolia and 82,7% in Southeastern Anatolia are unable to continue secondary education. The rate of girls married under the age of 18 is 64,7% in Eastern Anatolia and 72,6% in Southeastern Anatolia. 65,5% of girls suffer violence.

Dr. Nuşin Baydemir added, “The Platform aims to provide pre-marriage consultancy services, offer training to parents jointly with municipalities, develop psycho-training workshops for families, and produce informative programs and distribute them in DVD format to families.”

Dr. Jülide Ergin, General Manager of the AKUT Foundation, underlined how unlucky and unbearable it is to be a child in Turkey, and said, “We, as members of the Committee for Relations with International NGOs, will continue to work to provide a healthy environment for next generations in an effort to help them lead a safe life and have a culture of reconciliation even in hard times.” Ergin concluded, “Knowing that children are the most affected by any social hardship such as natural calamities, we will do our best to build a bright future for children.”

Berrin Yoleri, a member of the Board of Management of the Modern Education Foundation, said, “We have set up a Youth Committee believing that young people’s sensitive, creative and solution-oriented approach will contribute much to our social responsibility projects. By using all the IT tools available, we aim to be the voice of children, who are facing various risks and threats, organize any existing and prospective support and proceed through the appropriate channels to that end.”

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