Learning from the bees

Sevgi Koklu made the difficult decision to drop out of school at age 12 to give her seven younger brothers and sisters a chance for an education. Her family barely scraped by on a meagre income from her father’s periodic construction jobs in Van, a city of 500,000 in the eastern reaches of Turkey.

“I thought I was making the right decision for my family,” says Miss Koklu, now 16 years old. “But I soon got depressed from staying at home. I lost all hope of a better life.”


  • The UNDP and Coca-Cola Foundation project -- New World -- has 21 projects in 19 countries, providing access to improved water and sanitation to more than 55,000 people
  • New World projects help 220,000 people in communities around the world find ways to adapt to climate change
  • This project has introduced women and youth empowerment activities to more than 40,240 people in Asia, Africa, and Europe

A knock on her door changed everything. A representative from HADD – the Hisar Anatolian Support Society – came to her house to discuss possibilities for vocational training and literacy and writing classes at their nearby atelier.

HADD operates in a part of the country where cultural norms sometimes restrict girls’ options, often resulting in little schooling, early marriage, and high fertility. In a region where the average family has nine people, usually supported by just one breadwinner, HADD economically empowers families, specifically women.

Sevgi visited their workshops and began learning the intricacies of the art of dyeing and making traditional hand-woven rugs. While the carpet craft started to bring in much-needed income for her family, a teacher at HADD opened up the world to her. He taught her how to use a computer, provided history lessons, and showed her art and culture through his classes.

Recently, a new HADD venture has put an even bigger smile on Sevgi’s face and opened up even more possibilities. Sevgi has begun raising bees.

The beekeeping enterprise is funded in part by the New World Project – a partnership between UNDP and the Coca Cola Foundation which focuses on women and youth empowerment, and environmental sustainability.

The roughly 400 hives provided in Van through this project, are maintained by the local women and girls, and are boosting a long tradition of making honey in the region. The organic honey is marketed through boutique shops and fairs, with the income going directly back to the women beekeepers.

This queen bee project in Turkey is but one of 21 New World projects in 19 countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa. For Sevgi, the queen bees have given her a whole new dream. “I want to learn everything there is to know about them,” she says. “I want to be an expert, raise them, make more honey and grow a business of my own. A whole new world has been opened to me.”


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