Health and Social Services Provided for the Girl Labourers at Small Scale Enterprises in Denizli


a) Long-term Objective: Elimination of child labour.
b) Short-term Objective: Investigating girl labourers’ health and social problems, reducing the health and safety dangers at a minimum by means of improving their working environments, developing projects and models in order to solve their social problems.


Girl child labourers under 15, working at that region without attending to schools.


Girl child workers in Denizli have been employed not only at small-scale enterprises, but also at large-scale enterprises and organised industrial zones. Because of that reason, different from the previous Fisek projects, a contact office located in the city centre was deemed sufficient, rather than establishing a shared health unit at a small-scale industrial region. On that ground, factories and workshops were regularly visited by means of Mobile Clinics. Among the apprentices at the Apprenticeship Education Centre, the young girls were given a precedence in terms of health and social services. Small group meetings with the girl workers were realised. In order to make their dreams come true, the opportunities were investigated; and at some instances, these opportunities were provided under the scope of the project (i.e. completing the formal education, and etc.)


The gains of the project can be deemed too much. Because, it was the first time in Turkey that a project dealt with child labours with reference to gender issues, and tested the intervention methods accordingly. The data derived from the project were also presented in the academic circles, and they became fairly stimulative. Not only effecting the girl child labourers’ today but also tomorrow, these facts were evaluated, and the problems were overcome. The discussions on gender inequalities have been acquiring new dimensions by means of idea production, discussions and suggestions that are still continuing today. Besides, newly acquired data are used to be implied on other girl child labourers involved in other Fisek projects. METHOD By means of presenting the project studies and the gains derived from these at our web site, all these knowledge and experiences have been shared not only in Turkey, but also at the international scale.


Starting Date: April 24, 1996
Finishing Date: May 20, 1999


Practical results with respect to children, families and decision making mechanisms:

The major characteristic of the child labour-oriented Fisek projects is that workplaces are chosen as the centre of all relations. On that ground, the contacts with the girl child labourers have been made at the workplaces and Apprenticeship Education Centres. Except for some visits to city wards, close contacts with the mothers of these labourers have not been experienced. The impact of the Fisek-Denizli project over the “families and decision making mechanisms” is oriented towards the future. Not the current family of a girl (her father, mother, brothers and/or sisters), but her future family (herself, her husband and children) is the target. But still, the developments she experienced would certainly effect her current family.Throughout the studies, the girls have started to become aware of their own independent identities, and realised the fact that there are many alternatives in life except from the ones that are obstinately insisted, and that being different in a given society is nothing to be afraid of. Their talks and relations with their peers prove this.

Lessons to be learned from the project:

The project has proven that girl labourers are very sensitive towards societal developments and individual rights. It has been observed that they not only improved themselves, but also influenced their boy friends, whether having emotional ties or not. All the same, it is required for them to be involved in an occupation which they enjoy and through which they acquire their economic independence. This is in order to put these sensitivities into practice.

Nevertheless, they are confined to working at specific sectors till they get married or when they return to the working life afterwards. In Denizli, all the girl child labourers that we’ve met are working either in the textile sector or at hairdressers. Especially the girls who are not satisfied with working in the textile sector work till they get married in order to make a living; afterwards, they retreat into their homes without having a profession. The only way to overcome this vicious circle is to teach them new and different professional branches.

Sustainability of the supports provided for the girls ?who feel a desire for development- and achieving the increase in their numbers are the only ways for overcoming this vicious circle. For this reason, educational opportunities for these girls should be widened to a great extent and a group formation around a same “focus” should be ensured.

Evaluation of strong and weak points of the project on the basis of various criterions:

Mobilising the resources:

Another important characteristic of the Fisek projects is that they ensure the sustainability of the models by means of revenues that are gained from the services provided for the adult labourers at the small-scale workplaces. In the same way, the services of the Ankara (Ostim) and Istanbul (Yenibosna) projects have been still sustaining in progress, although many years have passed after the financial contributions of ILO/IPEC were ceased. It is in such a way that two additional neighbouring health centres (sharing the same equipment, yet established at different industrial regions) have been set into action in Ankara.

Similarly, the foundational structure that has been formed through the gains of Ankara and Istanbul projects has led to the sustainability of the efforts with a much wider group of volunteers. It has also led to an active organisational formation in carrying out the appropriation process of the subject-matter for the pubic opinion. But still, the foundational structure is not sufficient enough to be used as an additional financial resource for the other projects on child labourers.

Receiving contributions from the employers, a Health Centre at the industrial region has not been formed in Denizli, differing from the Ankara and Istanbul projects. Because, industrial sectors are employing boy child labourers in general, while the girls are employed in ready-made clothing business and at large-scale factories (Or the girls involve in these works at houses, at the borderlands of quarters, and at the temporary jobs). For these two sectors around which girl child labour is clustered in general, new approaching techniques should be developed.

It seems the most realistic way that the financial resources for the new projects on girl child labourers could be acquired through strengthening the foundational structure, as in the case of the Denizli project.

Mediating for the new projects and studies on child labour:

With the new data put forth for consideration by the Fisek-Denizli project, it has become the first time that such an extensive and in depth information on girl child labourers in Turkey was provided. The report (“Differences between Girl and Boy Child Labour”) presented at the III. National Demography Congress has called public opinion’s attention. On account of its putting forth one of the root causes of gender discriminations in the working life conditions, it has also become assertive for a women movement. Consequently, new and co-operative projects have been proposed to our foundation. Nonetheless, the general financial distress that our country lives through today has led to a blockage against the flow of donations.

Contributing to the national policies:

The influences of the Fisek projects over the national policies have started to be experienced. They have become a model study for the “shared health units” carried out by Turkish Medical Association on the one hand; and on the other hand, provision of health and social services for the child labourers has been taken on the agenda of the discussions and academic circles through scientific article production and theses.

Constituting the great extent of the Fisek projects, school-based health services realised at the Apprenticeship Education Centres have not been taken on the agenda of the Ministry of Education yet, due to the constraints in the state budget.

Again, as the Fisek-Denizli project was followed by Turkish Confederation of Employers Association (TISK) with a great interest, these two organisations become close to each other leading to co-operative projects.


Working Environment periodical of Fisek Institute issued in two months time since 1992 has furnished the sharing of knowledge and experiences through the increase in the sensitivity of the public opinion.

Fisek-Denizli project has brought about the fact it has become the first time that child labours in this city started to be discussed. At the start of the project, the local media and TV stations have paid a great attention to the subject. In regard to the realised studies and established connections, the project co-ordinator, Dr. Azime Bilgic states: “Among the child labourers in Denizli, you can see hardly anyone who does not know me”.

Beside Dr. Azime Bilgic, as soon as Nurhayat Kemerli, Oya Fisek and Ulku Selcuk have arrived at the Apprenticeship Education Centre for training facilities, a small group of girls gathered around them. Hosting reconciliatory and participatory facilities time to time, this environment is the most important indicator of sensitivity. Similarly, negative and positive responses have been received during the visits to quarters and conversations with the mothers of the girl child workers.


One of the most important gains of the Fisek-Denizli studies is in regard to the “educational sphere”. On that point, both the educational studies on account of achieving substantial changes in the social behaviours of the girls, and the efforts ensuring their graduation from the relevant schools (from the outside) through the opportunities of formal education mechanisms should be underlined to a great extent. Under the framework of the Fisek-Denizli project, 4 girl child workers were thought reading and writing; and a course was arranged in order to make 24 other girls achieve the completion of their schools. At present, 3 girl child workers have been still attending to open high school, and they have been assisted through the courses arranged by Fisek-Denizli.

For example, a girl child labour has learned how to use a computer and improved herself in terms of both her attitudes and dressing stile; and then, all of these have led her to be promoted to a significant position at the factory she has been working. Consequently, this has led to admiration among the other girl workers.

The fact that majority of the girl child labourers do not attend to Apprenticeship Education Centre, yet comprehensive educational services can be provided for the ones only who attend is a factor limiting these kind of efforts. On the other hand, employers are reluctant about the educational studies for girl child labourers due to the probability of labour force losses; and this has led to various drawbacks against wide-spreading the educational facilities, although girl labourers have been reached recently.

The educational studies have covered:

  • Meliorating the assurance (self-confidence) of the girl child labourers;
  • Socialisation process and identification (self-assigned roles);
  • Human relations and the necessity of solidarity;
  • Womanly problems;
  • Consciousness on human body;
  • Woman issues in front of the law

200 girls have participated in these studies. Besides, there have been other 30 girls who have participated in the focus group, yet been contacted during the extra-work hours.

Eradication of Poverty:

Poverty eradication is in regard to the long-term impacts of the Fisek-Denizli project. Insofar as our observations are concerned, our enterprise aiming at reducing the number of girl workers who quit their jobs as soon as they get married has brought forth favourable results. Among the 400 girl workers who were 15 years old at the outset of the project (1995), only 23 of them have got married. Additionally, among the focus group of 30 girl workers -with whom close relations were established and educational facilities were carried out to a great extent- there is no girl child who get married. Married girls quit their jobs both for the purpose of receiving a “marriage pay” and of satisfying their parents having a traditional way of life. However, one of the married girls has challenged all of these and not quitted her job; thus, she has sustained her pre-marriage status. On the other hand, the girl child labourers -especially the married ones- have a strong desire for learning family planning techniques. These three underlined points give us a cause to hope for the future.

Strengthening the society with reference to combat with child labour:

In 1992, when the IPEC projects have started, talking about child labour issues was something displeased and considered as the advocacy of some political movements. In spite of this, various studies and enterprises on that matter have come to the fore since that date, even they are inadequate.

On the other hand, these issues have started to be discussed more easily and extensively after 1992, because of the reasons that both social partners have included in that matter, and NGO’s have formulated various model studies after that date.

In a poor province that is developed in terms of industrialisation, but not in terms of social intervention programs, Fisek-Denizli studies have aimed to attribute the social intervention programs and findings on “gender discrimination” issues (regarded as taboo to be discussed) to the society. Even if there have been some interruptions, we think that this project have brought forth positive consequences in terms of strengthening of the society with reference to combat with child labour, while the subject has been reflected to the girl child labourers (thus, their families) and society (by means of media/TV).

Withdrawing children from labouring:

At that point, withdrawal of the girls from their jobs paves way to their isolation from society and early marriages. Because, the idea that girls can continue to the schooling facilities after the completion of formal education has not impressed itself yet in the mind of the low-income families. Our project aims to alter these wrong prejudices about the “social status and independent identities of the girls within the society”. Therefore, at that state, rather than withdrawing the girl workers from the working life conditions, it is more appropriate to guarantee better off working conditions for them, influence their thinking patterns in a positive way, and support them for making their dreams come true.

Bettering off children’s working conditions:

Bettering off children’s working conditions is an important matter that Fisek projects emphasise to the utmost. For this reason, protective health services are provided both at the Apprenticeship Education Centres, and at the workplaces. Additionally, occupational health and safety courses are given, and workplaces are visited by occupational safety specialists in order to determine the measures to be taken.

1005 children were medically examined during 1995-96 school year. Among these children, 350 of them were girls; and only 87 of the girls were reached at the Apprenticeship Education Centre. On the other hand, 462 children were medically examined during 1998-99 school year. Among these children, 300 of them were the girl child labourers; and only 80 of these girls were reached at the Apprenticeship Education Centre.

For the studies during 1998-99 school year, 132 employers were contacted with. Of these, 88 persons were employing girl child workers; and 40 of them was left no choice but closing down the workplaces due to the economic crisis.

Although not taking place under the scope of Fisek-Denizli, yet realised in the other Fisek projects, positive contributions of “Occupational Safety Exhibition House” and “Occupational Safety Engineer” were highly utilised for this project as well.

Since foreign countries oppress the others in regard to not buying “child-labour involving goods”, the number of girl workers has decreased to some extent, insofar as the workplace’s employee lists are concerned. Nowadays, girl child workers are working at the factories not more than one or two days in a week, shifting as teams. They are not registered as the employee of this factory, yet as the employee of a subcontractor undertaking packaging, cleaning and alike works. They have long work hours and work without social security options. As the interviews show, these workers are not the ones settled at the city centre, but the ones inhabiting in the neighbouring villages and small towns who have immigrated to Denizli from the villages of Central Anatolia. This is a new and different form of exploitation compared with the ones that we have been investigating up to that day. This is the development of the last few months.

Advancing the foundational capacity:

In order to advance the capacity of the foundation for the new Fisek projects, it is aimed to sustain a self-financing mechanism by means of selling the relevant services to the adult labourers (as an occupational health service with the condition that it is paid by the employer), while concentrating on the sustenance of the necessary equipment and organisational structure to be used for the child labour oriented services.

While providing the necessary services for the child labourers, the equipment and organisational structure are utilised at the maximum. Because of various reasons, the foundation have not found an opportunity of self-financing yet. On that drawback, IPEC’s ceasing the financial contributions two times have had a great consequence. This has led to daily considerations in dealing with the matter, while the project members have started to doubt about the sustainability of the project. Daily considerations come to mean this: Fulfilling the daily duties at the maximum, yet remaining passive with respect to the enterprises on the “advancement of the foundational capacity”, which take place during the period after the financial supports have been ceased. The economic crisis have had a considerable impact on these kind of manners. Almost all of the businesses we have work with have been involved in the textile sector, in which intensive bankruptcies and capacity decreases have been experienced. This has led to a situation that the employers have become unable to allocate the necessary resources for the employees and that Fisek members have started to ask for extra-organisational solutions for their future plans.

For this reason, it is more appropriate to underline foundational potential (rather than foundational capacity) for the present state of the Fisek-Denizli project. By foundational potential, we mean this: In an event of convenient economic conditions to be sustained, there is a potential for the services setting the health and social services into action and covering both children and adults as well as their working environments; yet, at present, employers’ economic resources do not suffice to meet these services.


International Labour Organisation’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO/IPEC);
Fisek Institute-Private Health Services and Research Institute.