ASIA · Turkey
Happiness is part of development!
While working as a teaching assistant in one of her country’s top universities, Nurcan Baysal (35) packed her bags to return to her hometown in Diyarbakir. Turning her back on a brilliant academic career, she decided to fight for the underprivileged of her region. Her good fortune was to be able to persuade the Ozyegin family, one of the country’s leading philanthropists, to partially fund a project which rapidly led to a country-wide integrated rural development program and one of the most ambitious efforts to tackle poverty and inequity in Turkey, the ‘Ozyegin Foundation Rural Livelihoods program’. It has a unique philosophy linking the development of economic opportunities with tools for empowerment and social mobilization.
The vision of the program is a process geared to eliminating social disparities and ensuring a decent life for all, which includes happiness (something rarely if ever mentioned in development jargon !) – in her own words, “re-building lives and living spaces that were once shattered and taken away from people.” For Nurcan, rural development is not only about income generation and infrastructure building, but about listening to people to comprehend what it is they actually need, desire and dream of – and then furnishing them the opportunities and tools to turn their visions into reality. Thus painting workshops for children can be as important as animal husbandry! Hence re-building relations, women’s empowerment, art, preserving positive values and customs are all part of the complete picture. In other words, the program has given qualitative measures an importance equal if not superior to quantitative output. After only one year in operation, there has been measurable progress.
Among the main features of the program outlined by Nurcan, one can mention its integrated program design, an emphasis on social capacity building and livelihoods, a framework of basic rights and services, including a human rights dimension at the core of the program, and an authentic participatory effort (often mentioned but rarely practiced in the field of development).