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

December 22, 2019

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

Podcast Notes

  • 0:51 Introduction of the topic, women in politics
  • 2:10 Why focus on this in Turkey?
  • 3:14 A rebellious spirit goes to the US
  • 5:01 Realization of Turkey's inequality
  • 7:33 Establishment of the Gender Equality Committee in the Parliament
  • 8:30 Addressing the issue of women's "qualifications"
  • 9:36 All politics is local
  • 11:05 The idea of a women's touch in politics
  • 14:23 What unites diverse women in Turkey
  • 18:01 Violence against women in politics
  • 19:24 Victimization leads to empowerment
  • 20:33 Her influences and role models
  • 24:16 The importance of mentoring and collaboration
  • 25:20 Mothering young activists
  • 27:04 How the world will be different for women 20 years from now

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