Experts on Jan. 26 held a publicity meeting and released the details of the “Istanbul95” project, which aims to improve life in Istanbul for young children and their caregivers.
Designed with the help of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, Istanbul95 launched in 2016 as a collaboration between four district municipalities and experts from both academia and civil society.
The program was based on a simple question: If you could experience the city from an elevation of 95 centimeters-the average height of a three-year-old-what would you do differently?
The project has been developing maps to help policymakers see the socio-economic distribution of children in the city by neighborhoods and also how major roads have an effect on the distribution of wealth in urban settings.
Another goal here is to guide officials in improving the design and use of parks and public spaces. The maps also show where the highest rates of maternal depression are likely to be, as child poverty and maternal depression correlate.
Bernard van Leer Foundation Coordinator Neslihan Öztürk said during the publicity meeting on Jan. 26 that 85 percent of brain development occurs between the ages 0-3, which is why the focus for this age group is quite crucial.
She said that as part of the project, experts have been visiting parents at home and informing them with regards to important issues in child caring.
“Home visitors have been mentoring them on what kind of plays they should play with the children, on how to make toys. The disadvantaged families in terms of socio-economic status are usually crowded. We have seen that as time progresses, grandmothers and grandfathers have also started to participate in the project,” she said.
Bernard van Leer Foundation Governance Consultant Fikret Toksöz said that although the project was initially implemented with the participation of four district municipalities, two run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and two by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), it gained momentum after Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu assumed the post following the 2019 local elections.
“The AKP showed the project as a pilot project and the CHP put items with regards to children in the program. But we have seen the main support from İmamoğlu and this made us very happy,” Toksöz said.
Toksöz also said that they have been brainstorming with children younger than 9 years to determine how the city can better serve the needs of children.
“We have asked children what kind of a park they wanted. Two of the answers we got were interesting. A child had drawn a cushion on the ground. When we asked him/her why that was needed, the child said, 'When I fall, I have aches everywhere, that is why.' Another child drew a bench and explained the reason as follows: 'So that my mother should not be left standing,'” he said.