Remarks Of H.e. Ambassador Selçuk Ünal,at The Turkish Embassy & Catwao Evening Of Music On The Occasion Of International Women’s Day (ottawa, Turkish Residence, 8 March, 2015) , 09.03.2015
Distinguished Members of CATWAO and Stellae Boreales Violin Ensemble,
I would like to welcome you and extend my congratulations to all women on the occasion of the 8th of March, the International Women’s Day. I hope this meaningful day would be an occasion for promotion of peace, justice and love for all humanity, but especially for all women.
I also would like to thank CATWAO for organizing this special event to celebrate the day.
Women’s rights, gender equality and severe human rights issues around women are at the top of the international agenda. Unfortunately, violence against women and gender inequalities still exist in the world. It is essential for men and women to have equal opportunities in all walks of life, be in politics, business, education, health care or participation in political and social life.
Cultural excuses and traditional customs against these rights should not create a challenge. We need to address all, everywhere in the world. Due to recent tragic incidents around the world, including Turkey, I would like begin by stressing that violence against women, any mentality which treats women as second-class citizens and which humiliates, despises and discriminates women should not find recognition in neither local nor international community. In this vein, in Turkey, Özgecan and her dear father have become a symbol. We should never forget them and the peace messages her father gave.
I would like to continue on more positive aspects.
As you know, it was the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who started to empower women even before some of the Western countries. Turkish women won the right to vote in municipal elections on March 20, 1930. They participated in the parliamentary elections for the first time on February 6, 1935 and obtained 18 seats.
Later on Turkey has become party to all relevant international agreements, charters and instruments concerning the protection of the rights of women. It supports the implementation of these conventions. The concept of positive discrimination for women found its place in the Constitution.
Turkey is proud to be a party to international conventions in the field of women's rights as well as those which support the implementation of these conventions. In this context, Turkey is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) since 1985. The Turkish Government ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2002. Prof. Feride Acar from Turkey was re-elected as a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in June 2010. She has been representing Turkey on the Council of Europe’s Ad Hoc Committee on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence since 2009.
The Constitution was also amended to clearly express that “men and women have equal rights. The State shall have the obligation to ensure that this equality exists in practice”. Turkey has introduced positive discrimination for women through the amendment which was adopted with the referendum held on 12 September 2010.
Furthermore, Turkey led the international efforts in preparing the “Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence”. It is also called the“İstanbul Convention”. Turkey was the first country to sign and to ratify the Convention.
Some positive amendments were brought in the relevant legislation for extending the duration of paid maternity leave as well as for decreasing the total hours of work required from new mothers until their babies are 1 year’s old. These facilitations are in the process of further improvement. Also, micro-credit projects for women were instrumental in delivering newfound respect, independence, and participation for women in their communities and in their households.
In conclusion, the 3rd Action Plan for 2016-2019 on violance against women that the Turkish Prime Minister Davutoğlu announced today is putting forward more steps to that end.
I would like to share some figures regarding women's participation in Turkish society:
In 2012-2013 academic year, the number of female teachers working in education institutions from primary school to high schools constituted the 53% (440.500) of total number of teachers. Proportion of female judges to total was 36,3% and the presence of female professors in academic life was 28,1 % in 2013. As of today, 14 of 174 University Provosts, 41% of academicians, 40% of health care workers, 14% of the MPs and 10 % of municipial legislative members are women.
With this understanding, Ministry of Foreign Affairs has contributed to the efforts aimed at protecting and promoting women’s rights and strengthening the status of women in the society, by closely cooperating with the relevant institutions in Turkey and in international arena in particular the United Nations, and its specialized agencies and mechanisms. Having had 48 female Ambassadors, 37 % of our Ministry officers (2175 out of 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 officers have been representing our country with great success. Also in our Embassy, the presence of our female colleagues and their strong contributions to the Embassy is very much appreciated.
Those figures, of course, are not enough. That is why, we need to further increase them.
But, what we need to do is also change mentality worldwide. As announced in today's Action Plan, in particular on violence against women, we need to further strengthen the legal framework, health care system, inter-agency cooperation and, last but not the least, raise awareness in every walk of life. Finally, we all have to keep in mind that without the support of women, no process can be successful.
I also would like to thank the young and talented members of the Stellae Boreales Violin Ensemble for sharing this important day with us through their music.
With heartfelt feelings, I sincerely congratulate the International Women's Day of all women.