Business leads the change

Meltem Ağduk, UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund Gender Program Coordinator
Meltem Ağduk, UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund Gender Program Coordinator

The panel titled “Overview at the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Turkey and the Role of Companies” of the “Business Against Domestic Violence” project that is implemented in the support of UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund and Sabancı Foundation, with the implementing partner Sabancı University Corporate Governance Forum and in cooperation with TUSIAD has been carried out in Istanbul on February 4 by the participation of the representatives of companies that are included in the project.

In the opening speech of the panel, TUSIAD Gender Mainstreaming Working Group Chairperson Oya Ünlü Kızıl started her speech by stating that the panel is a good opportunity to evaluate the gains and experiences of the “Business Against Domestic Violence” project. In her speech Kızıl said “Violence against women is a massive human rights violation. It is not possible to create healthy societies as long as domestic violence exists. Today great responsibilities are on each and every one of us here in order to solve this serious problem”.

“Today the aim of companies is not only to make a profit.”

Sabancı University Corporate Governance Forum Director and Principal Researcher Melsa Ararat explained what kind of transitions companies had in her speech. “10 years ago the only aim for the companies was to earn profit. While training the young to be employed in these companies, we used to train them in the way to help achieve this goal. However today this aim has completely changed, companies too started to consider the public benefit goals more particularly. As observed, we see that the investors also proceed by considering this new sensitivities of companies. Therefore, companies now adopt the aim of contributing much more to the society”.

Lecturer Dr. Özge İzdeş Terkoğlu from Istanbul University Cerrahpaşa Foreign Trade/Women Studies Application Research Center, Prof. Fatmagül Berktay from Istanbul University Political Sciences and International Relations/Women Studies, and Associate Prof. Sevgi Uçan Çubukçu from the same institution and Sabancı Univeristy Corporate Governance Forum and BADV Project Manager Sevda Alkan participated as speakers in the panel in which UNFPA, United Nations  Population Fund Gender Mainstreaming Program Coordinator Meltem Ağduk moderated.

 “Business leads the change”

In her speech, UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund Gender Program Coordinator Meltem Ağduk said “Years ago we used to see companies as financial supporter for our projects, but now we see that the business leads the change. We witness with pleasure that it undertakes a locomotive role which improves and transforms the society in the positive direction.”

Sabancı University Corporate Governance Forum and BADV Project Manager Sevda Alkan stated in her speech in the panel that the project started with a research in 2013 and it was revealed in the findings that 75% of the women included in the research have been exposed to at least one type of violence. She also added that the “Business Against Domestic Violence” project started the pilot scheme with 17 companies and now 52 companies are included in the project.

“Violence against women and gender inequality is not only a problem of women’s but also men’s.”

Prof. Fatmagül Berktay from Istanbul University Political Sciences and International Relations/Women Studies that stressed on the equality and difference of the genders in the panel said that “equality” demand is more of a right-based equation of differences than men and women being the same, being defined in the same way, and she added “violence against women and gender inequality is not only a problem of women’s but also men’s. Whether or not the woman is free is defined by the mobility freedom of women in public spaces”.

Associate Prof. Sevgi Uçan Çubukçu from Istanbul University Political Sciences and International Relations/Women Studies stated that the women’s movement in Turkey is on the front burner in a way as to serve as a model for many European countries and she drew attention to an important topic; and shared the information that “Violence against women does not remain limited to only uneducated and low-income women, we observe that violence incidents are much more frequently seen against women in higher position in terms of income and status. We know that these violence victim women choose remaining silent in order to protect their status”.

“Women turn into ‘hopeless’ unemployed as a result of their roles at home”

Lecturer Dr. Özge İzdeş Terkoğlu from Istanbul University Cerrahpaşa Foreign Trade/Women Studies Application Research Center mentioned the female labor force participation rate is quite low and pointed out that women turn into ‘hopeless’ unemployed as a result of their roles at home. She also added that as the child care responsibilities are pushed off on the women, women are almost obliged to live a prison life at home. Terkoğlu that said that regarding employment it is not right to see women as the employee bringing additional income to home, emphasized that the real target is that the woman can stand on her feet by employment.

The closing speech of the panel was made by Sabancı Foundation General Director Nevgül Birsel Safkan. In her speech, she said “we see that in the world every one of four women is exposed to a type of violence. It is another reality that violence victim women choose to remain silent in general. Forming a force unity as much as possible for the solution of this problem is the most effective solution. Within the scope of the project along with us, UNFPA, TÜSİAD and Sabancı University at the center of the project there are 52 companies from the business world. We think that it is quite important that companies undertake active role with regards to violence problem.”

Business Against Domestic Violence – BADV Project has been designed by Sabancı University Corporate Governance Forum in order to establish support mechanisms at workplaces against domestic violence and to make violence against woman more visible. Within the project, measures and support mechanisms against domestic violence are determined by using administrative and organizational capabilities of business world. The project aims at establishing awareness against domestic violence in women rights in business and at enabling women to take more effective roles in business life by improving their working conditions.

Overview at the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Turkey and the Role of Companies panel was financially supported by United Kingdom.