Two Sides of a Picture

By Prof. Dr. A. Gurhan Fisek

The conversation organised with regard to the “Healthy LifeExhibition” was participated by both working children and their non-working student coevals. They were constituting both sides of the coin (or the picture). They were at the same age. Nevertheless, the social conditions have pushed the first group to be involved in the working life, while mobilising the societal opportunities for other children to continue their education. It was only one picture; but there were various different stories lying behind.

Allowing the participation of each child, the chairs were arranged in a circular way in this discussion. As it was expected, it lasted pretty lively with a high participation rate.

The warning that “you should always remember that there may be other sides of the coin that is presented to you” influenced children to consider and develop different opinions about the environment they are in.

“Accidents happens when you are expecting them” … This warning was moderate enough for child workers and their coevals who will work in the future. Contrary to the ones uttered on the posters, accidents would inevitably happen, if the necessary precautions are not taken. For this reason, it was fairly important to give a special emphasis on whether the precautions are taken or not.

It was required to learn “how to pay attention to the workplace hazards”. It was very important for working children, for their health and safety, to pay attention to the machines’, ladders’, high platforms’ or electrical systems’ way of expressing themselves. They should learn how to pay attention to their expressions everyday they begin to work. Because, these vehicles were notifying children about the dangers related to themselves. All that is needed is that we should learn how to pay attention, to observe and perceive.

“Wish whatever you wish” enquiry was replied as “a better off working environment”. This reply was putting forth to what extent their dreams were circumscribed on the one hand, and to what extent their working conditions were not qualified enough on the other.

Our country is not able to instantly solve the child labour problem radically. However, it is able to provide healthier and safer working environments both for the child and adult workers. However, it can only be achieved in a society in which people are aware and insist on their rights.

The meeting called “two sides of a picture” enabled everyone to think that such meetings should be more frequently and broadly organised in order to raise awareness.


Out ofsight, out of mind; is it possible not to notice a street child ?!
But, whatabout children, in difficult and hazardousconditions,
working hard and straining their eyes?
What about girl children over which the doors are closed or locked?

Aroundforty years ago from now, there were also children working on the streets during my childhood. I grew up while they were also present in sight. There were shoe shiners, street vendors selling simit or lottery tickets. Yet, they were engaging in such economic activities during their extra-school hours, and they were not sticking to the passer-byes. They were not confusing working with begging. At nights, they were not staying on the streets. However, these days were not the ones that the children were directed by criminal networks or by their parents to do so.

Nowadays, we encounter with children that do not attend schools, that are illiterate, that are walking around the streets at late in the evening and that are putting us under pressure to buy something. They say “for God’s sake”, yet they mean “you should give” with their eyes and chases over you. It is soon that “sake” would come to disappear (just like in Brazil and etc).

If that’s so, what is the difference between “the past” and “today”. The basic reason is the migrations from the countryside to big cities.

Our researches, as Fisek Institute, have proven a sociological reality. It is the fact that children migrating to cities before 6 years old and inhabiting there at least 6-7 years are subject to changes in regard to their codes of conduct. They may prefer continuing their education instead of involving in working life. However, in regard to children migrating to cities after 12 years old, traditional-rural codes of conduct have serious implications over these children.

Among these implications, approaches towards women have a great priority. It is clear in what ways traditional societies approach towards women. They define women as an extension of men. First their fathers, then husbands. That is to say, they are not able to acquire an independent identity.

Generally, an occupation is considered as a mean for socialisation. But, that is not the case for women. Insofar as the traditional codes are concerned, it is depicted that “women should not work, they should engage in unpaid house-works, and they should have and take care of children during the times left over”. In rural regions, there is no time for women even to respite. So much so that, children are taking care of each other.

What differs when these people migrate to the cities? Women still engage in house-works, yet, field or yard businesses are no longer available. There is nothing left occupying women but the little children. Furthermore, necessities like bread are purchased from the groceries. Therefore, the long family patterns do still persist. However, raising children in cities is too costly to afford.

Living in cities is costly not only in regard to children, but also for the whole family. Bu still, there are various job opportunities available for all family members. By means of attending “craft courses”, mothers are trying to earn money though obtaining various skills which can also be carried out in a home environment. Of course, that is not out of the scope of traditionally determined gender roles. Children, on the other hand, are placed in a job according to the opportunities of a family circle to find a job. They either work in the industrial or service sector, or at the streets.

This “twilight zone” panorama must be socially interfered. For this reason, it is pretty significant to determine on a leverage point. In our opinion, the relevant leverage point is making women’s esteem and productivity increased.

As to the school-age girl children, education levels should be increased; they should be equipped with technical qualifications and skills; and it should be guaranteed that they would appropriate a career profile enabling them to stay in working life after getting married.

Allthese can be ensured not only by guaranteeing de jure equalities, establishing new schools or by the slogans like “Have a child as long as you can take care”. But at the same time, it is required that these girls should be able to break the traditional circle of their parents and future husbands and they should be approached as independent identities taking a part in a productive society. Concerning the “street or industrial worker children or the nominates”, Fisek Institute-Science and Action Foundation for Child Labour approaches to the problem by means of model studies that it has carried out in Denizli with the contributions of ILO and through the “Young Girls’ House Project” that it has proposed as a result of these studies.

We are forming the future families from today: Please support “Young Girls’ House” dream!

Prof. Dr., Ankara University, the Faculty of Political Sciences
Occupational health & safety and social politics expert

General Director of Fisek Institute-Science and Action Foundation for Child Labour