Remarks Of H.e. Ambassador Ünal, At The Turkish Residence & Catwao Evening Of Music On The Occasion Of International Women’s Day (ottawa, Turkish Residence)

Ottava Büyükelçiliği 08.03.2016

Madame President,
Distinguished Members of CATWAO,
Dear Guests,

Half of the stars in the sky belong to women.

I would like to welcome you and extend my congratulations to all women on the occasion of the 8th of March, International Women’s Day. I hope this meaningful day would be an occasion for promotion of peace for all humanity, but especially for all women.

I thank CATWAO for organizing this special event to celebrate the day.

Women’s rights, gender equality, human rights, employment and economic issues concerning women are at the top of the international agenda. Unfortunately, especially violence against women and gender inequalities still exist in the entire world. It is essential for men and women to have equal opportunities in all walks of life be it politics, business, education, health care or participation in political and social life. Let me emphasize that violence against women and any mentality which treats or discriminates women as second-class citizen should not be recognized.

Despite many common challenges, I wish to focus on positive aspects regarding Turkey.

- Turkish women won the right to vote in municipal elections on 20 March 1930. They participated in the parliamentary elections for the first time on 6 February 1935 and got 18 seats. We were before many modern nations.
- Today Turkey is a party to all international conventions on women's rights.
- Turkey led the efforts to prepare the “Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence”. It is called “Istanbul Convention”.Turkey was the first country to sign and ratify.
- Turkey is party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) since 1985. We ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2002.
- Positive discrimination for women found its place in the Constitution. Turkey introduced positive discrimination for women through the amendment which was adopted with the referendum held in 2010.
- Many positive amendments were introduced regarding maternity leave.
- Schooling rate of girls rose to 97 %. Ratio of women law makers increased to 14.7 %, ministers to 7.4 % in the Cabinet. Likewise, percentage of women mayors rose to 2.9 in 2014.
- Returning to diplomacy, a point on Turkey and Canada: Both countries have been leading the resolution that called for the creation of an “International Day of the Girl Child” that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2011. It is re-adopted every year with the lead of two countries.
- Other figures on Turkish diplomacy: Our Ministry also contributed to the efforts of the equality goal. We have more than 40 female Ambassadors, 35 % of our Ministry officers of more than 6.400 are women. Since Adile Ayda, the first female diplomat who commenced work in 1932 and Filiz Dinçmen, the first female Ambassador (posted to The Netherlands) in 1982, our female diplomats have been representing our country with great success. Today we have more Deputy Director Generals than men at the HQ.

My final words will be on international diplomacy: We are celebrating this day in this lovely country in a nice winter night enjoying indigenous artists. But I would like all of you to visualise and remember the harsh realities and difficulties of millions of women refugees. According to the UNHCR, 49.2 % of the 2.7 million Syrian refugees are women. Just yesterday, 25 of them died including their 11 children in the Aegean Sea while trying to save their families. And mind you, these were the luckier ones who were able to leave Syria. You can perhaps imagine the situation of the ones who were left behind.

I do not need to explain the immense contribution of the Turkish Government to Syrian and Iraqi men, women and children escaping from a certain death. This has been the case throughout history and it will continue. But, I urge every women association from here today to do more for other women in need. There is nothing stronger than the will of a mother trying to save her child.

I congratulate the International Women's Day of all women including the ones who, as we speak, are trying to save the lives of their children.

Thank you.


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