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Year: 2019

Episode 8: Moms and Madonna – Sources of Empowerment for Equality in Turkey

In the second episode of our Turkey series, we dig deeper into what bringing a gender perspective to politics means with Gülseren Onanç, the founder of the Equality, Justice and Women Platform in Turkey.  Gülseren draws on her diverse experience as a businesswoman, politician, nonprofit leader –  as well as a young basketball player where she first fought for equality  – in a discussion about the formation of an independent feminist movement that works towards social change and the pursuit of a universal women’s rights agenda.

In this free ranging conversation, Gülseren talks about why a woman’s touch is needed in politics, the role of violence against women, and how victimization can lead to empowerment. Gülseren talks openly about the influences in her life and exposure to people and places that have shaped her perspective, and the ways she is shaping a feminist conversation with women of diverse background and ages in Turkey.

Gülseren’s experience serving as a vice president of CHP, the Republican People’s Party, informed her desire to bring more women to decision making power in a male dominated environment. Gulseren realized early on that “one law could change everything, and lawmakers were mostly men”.

Before going into politics, she was the President of the Entrepreneur Women Association of Turkey, KAGİDER where she began to link labor participation of women with politics and the need to be grounded in international principles for equality in communities where women can gain power – politics and employment. During this period she opened up the first Turkish women’s NGO office in Brussels to pursue Turkey–European Union relationships.

In this critical time for Turkey’s development, Gülseren is changing the conversation about women and power with women by showcasing women’s leadership and activism from around the world and making it accessible in the Turkish language. She created a digital platform that brings together original news on gender equality in the local and international press, women’s search for rights and justice, and leadership in all areas – politics, business and women’s representation.

“We need more women who are searching for their equality.” – Gülseren Onanç.

Listen to the full episode

Episode 7: Challenging Rigid Gender Roles in Turkey by Being a Bit Naughty

The first episode of our Turkey series focuses on women’s rights in a male dominated culture with lessons learned from Fatma Çiğdem Aydın, an architect of the modern women’s movement. Çiğdem has shaped a multitude of initiatives for gender equality to help women pushback against discriminatory cultural expectations and gain more power in politics. As someone not afraid to speak her mind, she has encouraged women to stand up for their rights and be “a little naughty” in order to get things done.

In this episode you will gain insights from a country that broke through 500 years of Ottoman rules and medieval social customs for women. At the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, reforms were immediately implemented to liberate women so they could participate in every aspect of society equally with men, blasting centuries-old traditions to smithereens. Turkish women obtained the right to vote long before women in France or Switzerland had that right and appointed a female supreme court justice long before the USA did. Turkey also had a female head of state, a glass ceiling many countries have failed to break.

Yet, cultural change for women does not come overnight. There have been significant steps forward as well as backsliding on the path for equal opportunity in Turkey in recent decades – particularly related to violence against women and the high expectations of women in the home in their roles primarily as wives and mothers.

Çiğdem provides a bottom up view of the ingredients of change needed for women to break through in politics and influence society, as someone who has served as a city council member, candidate for Parliament, and has been a nonprofit leader fighting for gender equality curriculum in schools and for the rights of children and mothers. Çiğdem has worked with women MPs from all political parties for laws and regulations regarding gender equality while also empowering women new to politics. In the early years of creating space for women within political parties, she coached women to say no to party leaders who expected them to bake cakes for political meetings and clean the curtains of the party headquarters. No task is too small for someone working to transform systems – and the people in them –  in a country she loves very deeply.

Listen to the Full Episode. 

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