Remarks of Ambassador Selçuk Ünal at the CATWAO Evening on the occasion of International Women’s Day (Ottawa, Turkish Residence)

Selçuk Ünal 08.03.2018

Remarks of Ambassador Selçuk Ünal

at the CATWAO Evening on the occasion of International Women’s Day

(Ottawa, Turkish Residence)

Madame President,

Ms. Kerry Vance,

Ms. Vallerie Galley,

Steering Committee Members and Members of
the Heads of Mission Spouses Association,

Distinguished Members of CATWAO,

I would like to welcome you to another open-house event that we arranged for Canadian and Turkish Women’s Association of Ottawa (CATWAO) for their annual celebration. I recognize the presence of Ms. Kerry Vance, Spouse of the Chief of the Defense Staff, Ms. Vallerie Galley, Spouse of the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Steering Committee Members and Members of the Heads of Mission Spouses Association (HOMSA) – where my wife Lerzan is the Group Coordinator for Europe-II there. I also welcome the Canadian-Turkish Mezzosoprano Ms. Seda Güvener and Esteemed Pianist Ms. Val Wood who will perform a mini concert tonight.

I congratulate theInternational Women’s Day of all Canadian and Turkish women.

Women’s rights, gender equality, human rights, employment and economic issues concerning women are top priorities of the international agenda. Unfortunately, gender inequalities still exist throughout the globe. Violence against women, treatment of women as second-class citizens and discrimination cannot be accepted. It is essential for men and women to have equal opportunities in all walks of life.
Despite common challenges, I wish to focus on some aspects regarding Turkey.

Turkish women won the right to vote in municipal elections on 20 March 1930. They got their right to vote on December 5, 1934. 83 years ago, there was a cartoon in a Quebec paper showing the positive surprise of a Canadian lady. Turkish women participated in the parliamentary elections for the first time on February 6, 1935. Today, Turkish Parliament has 81 women MPs out of 550. It is six times more than the composition of the parliament in 1995.

Today, Turkey is a party to all international conventions on women's rights. It is party tothe UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which since 1985 and ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2002.

Turkey led the efforts to prepare the “Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence”. Turkey was the first country to sign and ratify the “Istanbul Convention”. Istanbul has been hosting the UN Women’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia since 2014. During our G-20 presidency in 2015, we led the foundation of the W20 (Women 20) Group. Turkey also led the establishment of the Consultative Women Council in the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation.

Turkey introduced positive discrimination for women in its Constitution in the 2010 referendum. Positive amendments regarding maternity leave were further improved. Schooling rate of girls rose to 97 %.

Violence against women is a human rights violation and furthermore a crime against all humanity. Like everywhere in the world, there is a great debate and big effort to prevent violence against women in Turkey too.

In that context, I wish to underline two important reports in Turkey:

First, the National Action Plan of the Ministry of Family Affairs for 2016-2020 on violence against women introduced new tasks to all public departments on five areas: raising awareness and education, transformation of the mindset, more protection services, more access to health services and deeper inter-agency cooperation.

Secondly, the National Action Plan for 2016-2020 of the same Ministry shows the extent of the work regarding women.

In 2016, 289.987 women who lost their husbands received financial assistance. Likewise, 1.175.124 women received maternal assistance. 101 guest houses are in place to protect women from domestic violence with a capacity of 2.657 are envisaged to increase. 94 projects have been put in place to enable women to have full access to all economic opportunities. “New Ideas, Strong Women Project” was fulfilled in five different regions of Turkey in 2016. “Women Masters Project” was initiated in 2016 for 2 years which envisages to provide vocational training to 500 women in 26 provinces. “Turkey’s Engineer Girls Project” was initiated for 2016-2020 in cooperation with private sector.

In diplomacy, there is a good cooperation between Turkey and Canada on gender issues: 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.

Continuing on diplomacy, I wish to give some figures regarding Turkish diplomacy: since Adile Ayda, the first female diplomat who commenced work in 1932 and Filiz Dinçmen, the first female Ambassador in 1982, our female officers have been successfully representing Turkey. We have 239 Ambassadors and number of our female Ambassadors increased from 14 to 51 in the last 15 years. 630 out of 1.850 career officers, 4 out 20 Director-Generals; 24 out of the 50 Deputy Director Generals at the HQ are women. The total number of high level women officers are 78.

Such figures must increase in every walk of life. But our women is taking part in every walk of life from military to all public services. We are proud that Ms. Deniz Selin Ünlübağ has just won the European Championship in Women Fencing.

Turkish women was very active, like in the Liberation War, in opposing the foiled coup attempt staged by Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETÖ). Turkish women once again fought for their country on 15 July.

I also wish you to remember the difficulties of millions of Syrian and Iraqi women refugees in Turkey. The immense contribution of Turkey to Syrian and Iraqi women and children escaping from a certain death is still ongoing.

While concluding, I would like to inform the audience on two other issues:

2018 is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and Turkey. Since 1943, Turkey and Canada have been staunch allies within NATO and partners in G-20. Since the Second World War, we have been staunch allies in Korea, Balkans, Middle East and now against international terrorism. Speaking of Korea, the Turkish troop contribution and casualties was fourth after the US, UK and Canada with so many tragic real stories. One of them was about a girl child who is an aged woman today. I would like to announce that, as part of the activities within the framework of 75th anniversary, the Embassy will host two special screenings of the movie called “Ayla”. The movie was the official candidate of Turkey in foreign language category in Oscar. It is based on a real story of a daughter of war and a Turkish soldier who has become a father to her. It is about motherhood and fatherhood, friendship and unfortunately the scary face of war. We hope to see you at the special screenings at the Canadian War Museum and at the Senate on March 17 and 22nd.

Another announcement is on Troy. Actually, our relation with Canada goes even deeper than 1943 with the participation of the Newfoundland Regiment to the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 where the Turkish forces were commanded by Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who later has become the first President of the modern Republic of Turkey.

I am sure you all have heard about the ancient city of Troy. Going back to the times of Troy, Gallipoli/Çanakkale historically has always been a strategic point. It is one of the 16 cultural heritages of Turkey at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List where you can see its photos in the “Turkey Home” exhibition we are displaying today. It is not famous only because of its archeological findings, but also due to the "Iliad" of Homer - epic poet from Anatolia, İzmir/Turkey. Due to the importance attached to protect this cultural heritage, Turkey has declared 2018 as "The Year of Troy" on the occasion of the 20th year anniversary of its recognition by UNESCO.There will be several cultural events, academic conferences and exhibitions to be held herein Ottawa, Toronto and thanks to that historic link in St Johns’, Newfoundland. We hope to see you on those occasions as well.

I once again congratulate the International Women's Day of all women.

Thank you.


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