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en's Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship in Rural Areas of Turkey

Mike Manaros, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics Uludag University, Bursa, Turkey, Email: [email protected]

Asst. Assoc. Dr. İ.Bülent Gürbüz, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics, Uludag University, Bursa, Turkey, Email: [email protected] / [email protected]


Nowadays, empowerment of women is crucial to rural development. Women's economic empowerment in rural areas is being regarded as one of the most important issue in rural development. The empowerment of women will not only give the women to self-actualization but self-development as well. Furthermore, it will also lead to development of the community as a whole. Entrepreneurship plays an important role in economic development. Hence, this manuscript aim to provide information about women's economic empowerment through entrepreneurship in rural areas of Turkey and will investigate further the problems and issues faced by women entrepreneurs.

Keywords: Women, Economic development, Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, Turkey

1. Introduction

Today, Entrepreneurship is becoming more important in economic development.  Although it has usually been considered as a male dominated activity, recent studies emphasize how significant the contribution of women today indeed, in 2010, 187 million women were involved in creating and operating enterprises, in other words it is almost 42% of entrepreneurs in the world were, indeed, women [1]. Participation of women to entrepreneurship to date represents an important engine of economic growth for developing countries as it has a leading role in generating productive work, achieving gender equality and reducing poverty [2]. In other words, women establishing small businesses are important for economic development and are also of vital importance in economic revival and employment generation after crises; women being able to receiving an income from a small business can ensure that their family are protected from poverty; and women as entrepreneurs mean they are active participants in the labour market which means this can reduce unemployment rate.

In Turkey, women involvement in entrepreneurship is low. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) data, almost one woman to five men is registered to own mature firms [1]. On the whole, however, studies on female entrepreneurship in Turkey are still at the infancy stage, and results show that the main problem Turkish women face in establishing their own business is related to what is still culturally supposed to be their role in social and family life [3]. Moreover, the above mentioned constraints are stronger for rural than for urban women [4].  Indeed, women having their own business located in urban areas seem to be less hindered by social and financial constraints.

Women in Turkey experience difficulties in starting up and maintaining a business. They have problems stemming from the community's view of women's place in society. Women entrepreneur in Turkey had some troubles at the time of starting up the business. [5]. At the time of starting the business most of the problems were obtaining capital, bureaucratic procedures and having no experience [5]. Similarly, obstacles like finding capital, business premises, trade goods or raw materials, lack of customer confidence, lack of respect within the community, can all present barriers to the female entrepreneur [6, 7]. Furthermore, research findings show that 88.2% of women had problems while maintaining the business [5]. It was found also that the most important three problems while maintaining the business were insufficient demand in the market, debt payments and tax payments [5]. Apart from economic difficulties, finding cheap and quality raw materials, marketing, long-term planning and employee problems can occur [6, 8]. Also, they fight with inflation, tax, high interest rates, and changes in laws and competition with big companies [9, 10]. Despite of all the difficulties, entrepreneurial activity is an effective way to self-realization and contribution to society. Women who are in the entrepreneurial process make positive effects for the family economics, and a wider scope for the national economy.

2. Economic development and rural development

The resource and target of economic development is people. The main objective of development is the efforts for enhancing the living standards of people economically, socially and culturally. With the strategy of ensuring that everyone lives well in the world, the pursuit of development aimed at rural people accelerates, and with it, rural development becomes prominent. It will be possible for those living in rural areas and mostly dealing with agriculture to lead a life close to the national welfare level through rural development policies and practices. Development could be ensured in rural areas when more shares could be obtained from agricultural added value and development instruments such as education-health-organization-infrastructure-access to resources are introduced and extended to rural areas. Thus, a balanced and proper development could be ensured. Currently, national and international institutions allocate more resources, knowledge and time for rural development. Poverty hunger, unemployment, lack of lands, integration, education, health, dramatic migration movements, women and children, unfair distribution of income, social communication, environment and negative conditions faced by disadvantaged institutions are direct sources of concern for every society and individual. Rural development efforts are prioritized for the solution of these problems particularly in developing countries such as Turkey. Agricultural sector, and thus rural development, is the leading priority in Turkey-EU relations as well. Adaptation of Turkish agriculture to the EU Common Agricultural Policy must be ensured. General socio-economic structure in Turkey, problems in the rural areas, structural dimension of rural-urban migration, traditional norms and rules, unemployment, poverty, interregional inequalities and gender-balanced development require sensitive and integrated rural development approaches. Integrated rural development approaches, on the other hand, include a proper synthesis and finalization of existing situation analysis for rural areas. In this synthesis, investment in human capital is the most important step for development. Investment in human capital is one of the significant factors to bring momentum to rural development and thus economic growth. Introduction of this capital to production more with a gender-balanced approach, within the understanding of efficiency, will bring along economic growth.

2.1 Inequality for women in participating rural and economic development

Gender inequality is still one of the most persistent, widespread, and pervasive forms of inequality across the globe [11]. Women constitute half of the human capital in rural areas. According to TURKSTAT data [12] out of 6.217.919 people in the towns and villages in 2015, 3.134.796 are men and 3.083.123 are women. Women population within the human capital is not at the desired level in terms of their position and characteristics in the society. Generally male dominance is observed in rural areas and women are in the background. Failing to benefit from the half of rural population efficiently brings along an important limitation in rural development and growth. Social development and coordinated economic development will be possible if the society is considered as a whole. The positive relationship between economic development and efficient employment increase is a well-known fundamental proposition of the theory of economic development. It would be possible to activate this proposition in rural areas through the empowerment of women in terms of employment, education, knowledge etc. Ensuring and managing a sustainable rural development is possible with the sufficient involvement of local actors of rural economy in business world and by ensuring their participation in rural development plans. These actors are especially farmers; that is to say, the target group in rural areas including men, women and children. Although these actors are within the business world due to being producers by nature, they cannot play an active role since their education, income and awareness levels are low. Women and women labour, on the other hand, are the invisible actors of this economic environment.

In Turkey, both rural problems and the position of rural women within the society result in their social and economic exclusion. Some of these problems are: increase in the disparities between rural-urban areas, scattered rural settlements, limited employment opportunities in rural areas, fragmental agricultural lands, lack of organization, weakness of agriculture-industry integration, prevalence of subsistence and semi-subsistence production, lack of sufficient financing support for women, inadequate education, reaction from the environment and family and existence of prejudices. These problems also pose an obstacle for the inclusion of women in business world.

Traditional family structure in the rural areas in Turkey includes intensive labour and organization of women in the house and agricultural production. Traditional family structure both has a direct impact on the lives of women and is also influential in the determination of their right to use resources, labour and income. Share of women in agricultural production is considered as an extension of their housework with the impact of social and cultural factors and this leads to seizure of this share.

The share of rural population and the share of agricultural sector in employment in Turkey have decreased in time in parallel with the structural transformation and social change. While 46,0% of those employed in Turkey worked in the agricultural sector in 1990, this percentage was 20,7% in 2013, and 20,5% in 2014 as average of 10 months [13]. Although the share of agricultural sector in employment has decreased at the percentage of 55,0% in the last 25 years, one out of every 5 people, who are working, is still employed in the agricultural sector. In Turkey, 13,3% of the population in urban areas, 66,5% of the population in rural areas and 49,0% of the population in Turkey in average are unpaid family workers. 16,0% of the women in Turkey are not covered by any health insurance. This percentage is 31,0% among women in the age group 15-19. 69,0% of women are not covered by any social security [14]. Women continue to be disadvantaged in the labour force market. Unpaid family labour in the agricultural sector is the main economic activity for women. Most women focus on marginal works. There are limited non-agricultural job opportunities for rural women. Due to migration from rural to urban areas, women withdraw from agriculture and are no longer unpaid family workers; thus, employment percentages in rural areas decrease unfavourably for women. Women migrating to urban areas can find limited job opportunities in non-agricultural sectors or do not fall in the scope of national income calculations since they continue to be housewives. Labour force disintegration in agriculture is the main reason behind the decrease in the employment of women. In Turkey, unless the efficient employment opportunities for women in rural areas can be provided in urban areas as well, women will have to stay in rural areas and rural industrial investments must be increased to provide employment at rural level. According to a study of World Bank [15], a 6% increase in the employment of women may lead to 7% increase in incomes and 15% decrease in poverty. Rural women are involved at every stage of crop and livestock production using soil, water and biological resources and agricultural input, and can contribute without a social security. In agricultural holdings, women are involved in the labour force-based agricultural production about issues generally related to production techniques. Besides, those who do not have lands or would like to generate additional income work as temporary and seasonal workers. As the level of mechanization increases in agriculture, women withdraw from agricultural production and are inclined to become housewives. However, it is observed that women producers are in the background when it comes to more technical issues such as taking decisions on agricultural production in the agricultural holdings, provision of internal and external financial resources and marketing. Rural women are not considered in decision-making processes and implementation of the decisions. According to 2015 data, daily wage difference between women, who are seasonal agricultural workers, and men is 28,26% and daily wage difference of women who are permanent agricultural workers is 17,34% [16]. Furthermore, women working in rural areas face more labour loss in the distribution of incomes. In Turkey, the share of agriculture sector in national income is 6,4% as of 2013, and Gini coefficient is 0,365 according to 20% percentiles [13]. It is observed that the income inequality is less in rural areas when compared to urban areas according to Gini coefficients. However, it must be remembered that income level per capita is lower and poverty is more common in rural areas. Women and children are the groups affected by poverty the most. Phenomenon of poverty, which is both interrelated and in interaction with concepts such as unemployment, deprivation, discrimination and social exclusion, can be defined as the lack of minimum living standards and failure to meet basic needs. Policies for fighting poverty and successful implementation of these policies are important in sustainable rural development. Necessary measures must be taken against poverty and failure to access resources, which affect large groups and particularly women with their results, for the sustainability of development.

Since women are more exposed to gender discrimination, far from the social life and in the background in rural areas, they are the poorest group in the distribution of income. Eradication of poverty requires powerful and continuous measures at the level of government and individuals and in order for it to be efficient, national efforts must be substituted with international efforts. Micro-credits that are mostly aimed at women are important instruments to reduce poverty, provide employment and ensure rural development. One of the major benefits of micro-credits is the social, economic and political empowerment of women. Microcredit programmes may strengthen especially the economic autonomy of women and may result in their dealing with untraditional works. Their increasing economic roles enable them to prove their economic capacities and bring them to a higher position in the society. Besides, financially contributing to a household or a community brings more acceptance and value to the opinions of women and provides them more authority and respect. Women entrepreneurship is usually disregarded and only considered from a production perspective. Priority must be given to encouraging women in entrepreneurship, with a positive discrimination approach, and supporting women organizations further and efficiently. Entrepreneurs should be supported in the areas such as tourism, handicrafts, livestock production and weaving, which have local potential to increase the income level of rural population and reduce poverty. Encouraging women entrepreneurs to be involved in business world or strengthening existing women entrepreneurs with micro credits would be a driving force in sustainable rural development. Success to be achieved in rural development would be meaningful with the selection of correct intervention tools, involvement of local actors and proper identification of their roles in the economic development of the country.

Although 1 out of every 3 women employed works in the agricultural sector in Turkey, rural women remain in the background in organization, which is one of the problems in agriculture. If women are organized, they will take their position in rural development by being managers, using the supports more by registering to Farmer Registration System, accessing the resources more, participating in the marketing process, increasing their self-confidence, ensuring economic cooperation through solidarity, affecting the political mechanisms by raising awareness on solidarity as well as increasing the productivity using modern production methods. Organization enables common decision-making within the social structure and development of an understanding of responsibility and related mechanisms, gathering all human and physical resources and development of attitudes and habits on acting together. In the development of agriculture and rural community, organization plays a complementary role for the instrumental dimension of development by increasing cooperation, common ground, common interest and awareness. Organization umbrella should be efficiently established to increase entrepreneurship skills of women in Turkey and to make them visible actors in economy and the focus should be on the agricultural extension activities related to organization in this area. Education is the most important factor enabling women to stand on their own feet, increasing their self-confidence and self-esteem, making them aware of the innovations, ensuring environmental protection with a better use of the natural resources, teaching profitable production and enabling taking rational decisions. As it is known, agricultural extension is farmer training. Extension activities for rural women are mostly about improving home economics and handicrafts skills. Extension activities for agricultural production have been limited to pilot projects. It can be said that extension activities could not reach the target group sufficiently in terms of placing women in the centre of agricultural production. Motivating rural women with agricultural extension activities would bring along the principal and determined attitude of a balanced development. While taking all target groups into account in the rural development activities, women should not be neglected. Focus should be on the extension works and training and project activities for women and responsibility should be undertaken for women participation. With the agricultural extension activities, rural women should be empowered to become courageous, determined and aware of their own capacities and to analyze their own problems, question and improve themselves. Gender-balanced development approach should be adopted and agricultural extension activities should serve as a basis for development. The roles of both extension and formal education are quite important to create a social change and ensure sustainable rural development. Sustainable rural development gains momentum by training women on modern agricultural techniques, informing them on economic, ecological and sustainable production and making them innovative role models with their practices.

3. Conclusion

Within the scope of EU harmonization, women are considered among the disadvantaged groups, and measures for their empowerment should be improved. Women producers are in each phase of production as much as men, however, their efforts are invisible. Invisibility also isolates women in many projects, leaves them out of development efforts and causes the perception that farming is a male occupation. Gender-balanced development efforts will ensure a balanced rural development. Potential experience of women should be used more rationally. Increase in women poverty and gender inequality caused by economic differences should be prevented. Rural women should be provided with equal and fair economic-social-cultural opportunities for sustainable development. Gender-balanced, small and medium scale rural development models focusing on participation and social dynamics, aiming to improve human resources and creating alternative employment and income opportunities, which can also mobilize non-agricultural economic activities, should be implemented.

The important role of women in rural development, especially for a sustainable development, is already a recognized reality. However, uncovering these roles will be possible by bringing certain features of women up to a desired level. The role of women in sustainable development will be efficiently demonstrated by raising their awareness and efficiency by uncovering their potential capacities and opportunities; improving their access to information, organizational skills, access to social security and health services; increasing their educational levels and ensuring their economic independence from men. Gender-balanced rural development approaches, ensuring participation, informing and motivating with agricultural extension activities to create projects, creating sense of responsibility, ensuring ownership of the programmes by making them feel involved and providing incentives and supports for their economic empowerment will create an important impact on including women in rural development programmes. Problems, tendencies and needs of women should be taken into account. Rural development will be meaningful only when it is supported by mobilizing all stakeholders in rural development, solving problems in the rural areas based on agricultural policies, creating a strong, civil and democratic society, eradicating poverty and inequality problem, improving the legal system and institutional structure and implementing laws and regulations. Qualitative and quantitative characteristics of women will reduce development gaps globally. The main factor in sustainability of development is the investment on people. Investment on people, on the other hand, is strengthening this factor with education. Sustainable rural development will be ensured by improving the economic conditions, entrepreneurship, educational level and culture of rural women; increasing food safety and income levels of women and strengthening the training and extension service

Strategy Suggestions for the Role of Women in Rural Development

Certain strategy suggestions that will uncover and strengthen the role of women in sustainable development could be summarized as follows [17]:

• New working fields could be created by increasing non-agricultural employment opportunities in rural areas for rural women. Therefore, investments on rural industry could be encouraged by identifying investment areas and guidance can be provided on finding a market by creating alternative working areas (production of traditional goods, rural tourism, etc.).

• Vocational programmes could be organized and disseminated particularly for women migrating from rural areas. Besides, social training programmes for both women and men can be provided to create alternatives that will serve to change the traditional attitudes.

• Local investment models, and especially cooperative entrepreneurship, could be developed by prioritizing organization of women producers in rural areas. They can enter the market through their own organizations. Product exchange platforms and traditional product markets where they can sell their products could be established.

• Facilities to be used only by women could be established in rural areas and a social security system, where women can pay depending on their income levels, could be introduced. Premium payments could be arranged considering their invisible efforts in agricultural production and taking into account their working times and conditions. Disadvantageous position of rural women in land ownership could be resolved through information activities and legal arrangements. Especially legal arrangements and political decisions (inheritance law, land reforms etc.) could provide a structural transformation.

• Information channels and mobile health services could be provided for women to access health services.

• Joint activities could be carried out with all relevant persons, institutions and organizations for seasonal and mobile women workers in order to improve their working conditions, arrange working hours, ensure adequate and balanced nutrition, increase educational opportunities and make them compulsory, provide medical examination, improve environmental hygiene conditions and inform about their legal rights.

• Rural development policies could be improved by prioritizing women at national level.

• Regional analytic studies related to poverty dimensions of rural women could be conducted.

• Informative and persuasive extension activities could be carried out before initiating development works for rural women. These extension activities may contribute to the ownership of the programme or the project, increasing participation and raising awareness. Extension strategy is based on informing and raising awareness of individuals before initiating activities.

• Ensuring participation of women at each level and in each phase from the planning of rural development projects to the implementation could improve their rights and opportunities.

• Projects developed for rural women could be brought forward, monitored and turned into sustainable projects with efficiency analyses.

• Micro-credit projects started to be implemented locally to achieve sustainable rural development in Turkey. These projects are not the only solution to reduce poverty of women. However, they are important tools that will contribute to empowering women in rural areas. Priorities of women could be considered by informing them on micro-credit practices and carrying out dissemination activities focusing on rural women.


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