University and high school students set to focus on equal rights and opportunities

Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Annika Molin Hellgren, Ambassador of Sweden in Turkey had a question and answer session with students.
Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Annika Molin Hellgren, Ambassador of Sweden in Turkey had a question and answer session with students.

’The Dialogue Meeting from Beijing to Present and from Present to Future’’, an event organised in a joint initiative by the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Group of UN Turkey, the Embassy of Sweden and the Universities of Osmangazi and Anadolu on the occasion of 8 March International Women’s Day was held in the campus of Osmangazi University on 4 March 2019, with the participation of university and high school students and discussion sessions realised by the UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund, UN Women, International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Prof. Dr. Kemal Şenocak, Rector of Osmangazi University, who made the opening address in the event, said: “We can achieve social and economic welfare, strong social and familial bonds, sustainable development, participatory democracy, all essential values of contemporary civilisations, only by establishing justice in society. At the core of this justice, on the other hand, lies the securing of social justice between both genders, between women and men. Indeed, the half population of a community cannot develop, be empowered and progress when the other half is derived from participation in economic and social life.’’

Another person who made a speech in the event was Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, United Nations Resident Coordinator.  She said: ‘’The broad participation to the event organised here today has pleased me so much. We all have a key role to play as far as the achievement of gender equality is concerned. Gender equality does not mean that we should all be the same, but it does mean that differences between genders should be respected. The half of any society consists of women, the other half of men, and these both halves should act together to achieve social progress. I thank you all for participating in this event today and assuming responsibility for what would be accomplished in the future. I recommend you to make it your target to carry forward what we have so far accomplished into the future in a much better and enhanced manner.’’

Annika Molin Hellgren, Ambassador of Sweden in Turkey, also spoke at the opening ceremony of the event and said: ‘’Gender equality is of essential importance for society in Sweden. The primary aim of the policy of gender equality in Sweden is to ensure that every individual has equal opportunities, equal rights and equal responsibilities.  Looking at the past 5 decades in Sweden, we see that there has been a close correlation between the presence of women in the labour market and improved gender equality, and sustainable growth in high rates and opportunities of access to social development for everyone. The statistics of the 1970s and the 1980s regarding the employment of women show that Sweden has experienced a transformation of great scale, whereby the employment rate of women increased from 59 per cent to 84 per cent’’.

Serpil Sancar, Director of Ankara University’ Research and Application Centre for Women’s Problems (KASAUM) informed the participants about the developments in the Beijing Process and monitoring mechanisms as well as combat of women’s movement for gender equality.

In the second half of ‘’The Dialogue Meeting from Beijing to Present and from Present to Future’’ held on the occasion of 8 March International Women’s Day, groups comprising university and high school students realised discussion sessions on the basis of three main problem areas they chose with moderators specialising in this subject from among twelve critical themes defined in the International Women Conference held in 1995 as strategic targets aiming at achieving gender equality. The themes chosen for discussion sessions were “Women and Health’’, “Women and Economy’’ “Violence towards Women and the Stand of Media’’, ‘’Women in Authority and Decision-making Processes’’ and ‘’Girls’’.   

While the session under the title “Women and Health’’ was chaired by Dr. Gökhan Yıldırımkaya, Reproductive and Sexual Health Programme Coordinator of the United Nations Population Fund, in the session “Women and Economy’’, Ms. Gül Erdost, Women Empowerment Expert in the Humanitarian Aid Programme of the United Nations Population Fund, discussed with the young people those problems relating to economic life and related solutions on the basis of the Beijing Declaration.

The discussion group with 16 students, 9 university and 6 high-school students, dealing with the theme ‘’Women and Health’’ that was presided over by Dr. Gökhan Yıldırımkaya, Reproductive and Sexual Health Programme Coordinator of the United Nations Population Fund, discussed what should be done to provide women a healthier future. In the discussion group, young people defined the problems with respect to easy access of women to healthcare services and discussed the proposals to solve such problems. In this respect Yıldırımkaya said: ‘’It is encouraging and promising from today into the future that young people in the working group have voluntarily assumed an active role in reporting and presentations and made proposals for very constructive and improving activities and programmes in which they themselves would be engaged together with NGOs, local governments and other stakeholders.’’

In the session held under the title ‘’Women and Economy’’, Gül Erdost, Women Empowerment Expert in the Humanitarian Aid Programme of the United Nations Population Fund, discussed ‘’the disproportionate responsibility’’ laid on women. Dealing with the theme with focus on the double burden on working women arising from employment and burden of the household tasks, the group made special reference to the importance of mainstreaming of methods that would facilitate women’s life and ensure them gender equality. The youths participating in the discussion shared their opinion that gender equality should be integrated into curricula and taught as compulsory course from early ages. They also said that the group discussion was an awareness raising activity in respect of gender equality for them.

The event ended with the presentations of group speakers to the participants. It was observed that the students particularly emphasized the following considerations in their presentations:  

“Women and Economy’’: “We believe that men should be included in equality projects to establish gender equality in society in a sustainable manner’’.

“Women and Health’’: “We believe that age-conform structured curricula that provide young people with information on reproductive health and unhindered access of women to reproductive health services in an approach based on rights are factors of great importance to achieve equality’’.

“Women in Authority and Policy Making Processes’’: “Leadership is not an aspect specific to masculine gender, but it is one that is independent from gender.’’

“Violence towards Women and the Stand of Media’’: “We are of the opinion that the visual representation style in today’s media presented with a masculine perspective should be amended’’.  

“Girls’’: “Education will lead girls into a better life.’’