Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Turkish Life, Turkish Women

By Elmira Bayrasli

Turkish women, Raquel Fernandez, professor of economics at NYU, says, are among the most satisfied with their roles as housewives compared to other women around the world. She explains this through culture and why it matters to economic development, which has been exploding in Turkey over the past several years. So where are the women?

So much has been written about Turkish women and the need to support their empowerment. Turkish Philanthropy Funds is at the forefront leading this effort through its programs dedicated to gender equality and education. I wrote about my favorite program, spearheaded by the Mother Child Education Foundation (ACEV) a few months back.

But more needs to be done beyond education to fully integrate women into all aspects of Turkish life. Turkish women are, as the country’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk recognized, vital to country’s dynamism and success. No surprise he ensured that Turkey’s women were granted the right to vote and equal access to education. On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, it’s important to recognize hail the numerous bold efforts to help Turkish women realize their enormous potential.

• Newsweek and Daily Beast chief Tina Brown has hailed Pinar Ilkkaracan one of 150 women who “shake the world.” Ilkkaracan will participate in the conference named just that this week for her work on women’s human rights. She heads two NGO’s, Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways and The Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies. Both have been key in advocating for increased women’s rights.

• When a 16-year old girl was found last year to have been buried alive by her relatives for “talking to boys,” I immediately thought of Mor Cati. Known as “purple roof” in English, Mor Cati was born out of a “resistance movement” against violence against women in 1987. It has become one of the most important organizations providing refuge for abused women through shelters and a hotline.

• A hotline into the brutal world of war is what journalist Nadire Mater has provided us with her book, Voices from the Front. It’s an account of Turkish soldiers in the trenches, fighting Kurdish separatists. It brings us first-hand accounts of the fears these young men hold and faulty policies their superiors advance. It is the hallmark of Mater’s tireless work in human rights and her insistence of bring it to light through human stories.

• Stories are what Anastasia Ashman, Rose Deniz and Tara Agacayak have been bringing to Turkey and the worldwide community of “hybrid ambassadors.” Inspired by Ashman’s wonderful book Expat Harem, these writers, artists and entrepreneurs are translating life in Turkey, for themselves as well as for women all over the world who grapple with fitting in.

• And finally a woman bringing Turkey to the world: Melek Pulatkonak founded Turkish Women's International Network with the goal of connecting professional women and friends of Turkey to leverage their collective power for those Turkish women who aspire to join them. It's a badly needed platform that I'm proud to be a part of.

Here are a few. We’d love your suggestions for more. Please participate in the conversation.

Go to TPF website.

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