UNICEF Global     TR

* Adolescents and young people are often not well understood and trusted by parents or society. They are not brought up to express opinions or take decisions for themselves and may be severely discouraged from doing so. Turkey has been slow to develop a youth policy through a participatory process. An ideal youth policy would inspire a more positive and empowering attitude to these age groups, who make up at least a quarter of the population, and sponsor their engagement in civic affairs, as well as drawing resources and policy-makers’ attention to the services which they need.

* Opportunities for personal and social development, leisure, sport and information are unevenly spread. Girls, young people in rural areas, the poor, the disabled and other groups may face obstacles in participating in beneficial free-time activities of their own choosing. There are socioeconomic and gender disparities in access to the Internet. Young people are not supported in making full use of the benefits of the Internet and empowered to protect themselves from related risks.

* For many young people, the transition from school to work is a difficult and drawn-out period. At any one time, about 30%of young people in Turkey are neither in work nor in school. This is a very high proportion by international standards. The ratio is highest among girls, many of whom never join the workforce at all. Secondary education has been made compulsory, and enrolment in tertiary education is increasing. Efforts have also been made to increase vocational education and make it more relevant to labour market needs. Nevertheless, educational opportunities remain very uneven, and some young people have no choice but to enter casual or low-paid work. In addition to further improvements in the education system youth-friendly labour market and social security policies are desirable.

* The average age of marriage is rising and young people are playing a greater role in choosing their own partners. However, implementable evidence-based policies are still urgently needed to combat early and forced marriage among teenage girls, which infringes their reproductive health rights, paves the way for risky fertility practices like early childbirth and multiple pregnancies, causes them to withdraw from education and begin to labour as housewives at an age when they have not completed their physical, emotional and social development, exposes them to domestic violence, and exacerbates the cycle of poverty.

* There is a case for prioritising adolescent health as a public health issue. Available information suggests that the health condition of adolescents and young people is only about average by international standards. Information about forms of risk behaviour other than smoking is limited. Provision for recovery and rehabilitation for drugs addictions may be insufficient. Adolescents’ knowledge of reproductive health appears to be very limited, partly due to social taboos.

7.1 Lives in transition

The transition from childhood to adulthood is a process which, in its various aspects, may begin in the child’s early teens, or even earlier, and which usually extends far beyond the age of eighteen – the age at which the person becomes legally of age and so acquires full civil rights under the law while ceasing to enjoy the special protection of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Conventionally, adolescence is defined as the ages of 10-19, with further sub-divisions into early, middle and late adolescence (UNICEF: The State of the World’s Children 2011 – Adolescence, An Age of Opportunity). Youth is usually considered to span the ages of 15-24, although this definition is sometimes extended further nowadays in view of longer years of education, later marriage and the rising age of entry into one’s first job.


7.2 Personal and social development, leisure, sport and information

From early adolescence onwards, the development in physical, cognitive and social capabilities accelerates. Adolescents and young people develop their personalities, interests, skills and competencies through cultural and artistic activities, physical activities/sports and social interaction. Such activities can also contribute to the physical and mental health and intellectual abilities of the individual, the quality of life of others, and the strength of communities and society. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child regards play and leisure as a right for all people up to the age of 18.


7.3 Health of young people

Adolescents and young people benefit from the same health facilities and services as the general population. Under the new General Health Insurance system, the government pays the health insurance costs of children up to the age of 18 and of some young people above that age while they are in full-time education. The impact of the new arrangements on access to health advice and treatment has not yet been measured. Provision of and access to health facilities and services may show geographical or other variations. From a public health perspective, adolescent health and well-being has arguably been overlooked as Turkey has concentrated its efforts in the areas of mother and child health and young child health. This is understandable but at the same time regrettable, since adolescence is a time when boys and girls have many questions about their health, and when life-time health habits are formed. The introduction of the family medicine system may present an opportunity to improve the monitoring of the health of populations of different age groups, and to provide more advice and information where it is needed – for example, to adolescents. However, this requires additional capacity building and resources. There may also be a need to pay more attention to age-specific issues in higher education institutions where future health personnel are educated.


7.4 Marriage and early marriages

Adolescence and youth is for many people a time when long lasting relationship are formed and life companions are chosen. This process is rarely devoid of anxiety and sometimes traumatic. For example, Turkstat demographic data shows that 23% of suicides among 15-24 year-old girls and 24% among 15-24 year-old boys are due to “emotional relationships and not marrying the person wanted” (Turkstat: Youth in Statistics 2011).


7.5 School to Work

Young people in Turkey perceive finding employment, or decent employment, as their major challenge. 49% of respondents to the survey carried out by the About Life Foundation (YADA) for the 2008 UNDP National Human Development Report entitled “Youth in Turkey”, when asked what they most desired, cited being able to find a decent job. Social status (18%) and love (17%) were given much lower priority. Finding work - or regular or acceptable work - may not be a major priority for some young women in rural or underdeveloped areas, or with lower levels of education, due to their own and others’ low expectations of their participation in the workforce. But for most young people, and for boys in almost all social groups, finding acceptable work is a key issue for reasons of income, security, self-image and social status.


7.6 Participation, civil rights and civic engagement

Adolescents and young people are at a time of life when they increasingly expect to have their privacy respected, to be able to take decisions about their own affairs, to obtain information from their own preferred sources, to have and express their own identities and opinions, to try to influence the world around them, and to join with people of similar views or interests to achieve common goals. From the perspective of society, it is a time when individuals must learn how to co-exist, co-operate and contribute within ever-larger social systems and structures.


7.7 Youth policy

The Constitution gives the state the task of providing services for the development of young people, albeit from a largely protective standpoint. Similar references to youth are to be found in the current Ninth Development Plan. Various sectors of national government (education, employment, sports, health, social services, culture…), local governments and NGOs provide information and services for adolescents and young people of various age groups within their own fields of responsibility and organisational structures. The Ministry of National Education has developed a parenting education programme for parents of children aged 7-19 (now incorporated into the parenting education activities of the Directorate General of Non-Formal Education), and a peer-to-peer life skills-based education (LSBE) programme for adolescents. The latter model in particular recognises the needs: to enhance the capacity of adolescents themselves—especially those form disadvantaged backgrounds—to protect themselves against violence, abuse and exploitation, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse and health risks; to make them aware of the services and information available to them; to help them to communicate with their parents, control their anger, resolve disputes, deal with stress and peer pressures and make their own safe, healthy choices about sexuality, and to inform them about their rights and gender issues and encourage them in planning their futures.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarý Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org