Statement by Turkey at the CSW event on “Breaking Stereotypes: Muslim Women as Agents of Change”

Bilge Koçyiğit Grba 15.03.2019
I would like to thank the Permanent Mission of Pakistan for organizing this side-event at the margins of the CSW session on this interesting and relevant topic.

At the outset, allow me to extend our condolences to the families of victims who lost their lives as a result of terrorist attacks against two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand.

We strongly condemn these heinous attacks motivated by Islamophobia. It is unacceptable that innocent people were murdered because of their faith. We expect the perpetrators be brought to justice as soon as possible.

Islamophobia is a contemporary form of racism and xenophobia. Hostility and hate crimes have a serious impact on the sense of security among Muslim communities, men and women alike.

Attacks of yesterday prove the urgency of the need to seriously address and take immediate action against these challenges presented by anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia. And this is directly linked to the topic of our side event: Breaking Streotypes of Muslim women.

We are all aware of the widely held misperception of Muslim women as submissive and lacking fundamental rights, such as access to education and health, marital and property rights and so on.

If we look at the sources of these stereotypes, we see that they mostly emanate from sources that are of non-Muslim origin. These sources rarely give space to Muslim female narratives. The reasons for such misperception are manifold.

First of all, when we say Muslim women, we are talking about roughly 900 million women, living in more than 60 countries.

All these countries have different levels of economic development, government systems, historical backgrounds and cultural practices. It is not a homogeneous group.

Therefore, if we want to study the status of Muslim women, we should compare the major indicators such as access to education and work among the countries with similar economic levels.

We also need to emphasize that certain superstitions, taboos and practices that violate human rights cannot be attributed to Islam. Most of these are actually cultural practices.

The fact that many of the women in Muslim-majority countries still have not reached to their rightful position, should not be attributed to the religion or religious values.

In most Muslim-majority countries, we see increasing numbers of women participating and excelling in diverse fields and professions.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to give few examples from my own country.

In Turkey, women actively participate in all walks of life and take their rightful role in decision-making mechanisms at every level.

We have had a woman head of government, many women ministers, community leaders, governors, athletes, scientists, writers, musicians who gained recognition worldwide with their success .

In the Turkish Foreign Ministry, 35 percent of career diplomats are women. At the moment, we have 63 women Ambassadors, most of whom are in active duties all around the world.

Looking at the academy, the percentage of the women personnel reaches up to 44.5%.

The rate of women’s labor participation is 34.7% and our goal is to achieve 41% by 2023, 100 years of the Republic of Turkey.

We are also mindful of the fact that, as the Organization Islamic Cooperation countries, we should exert more effort in many of the issues relating to women’s rights and their access to services.

At the 13th Islamic Summit held in 2016 in Istanbu, Turkey recommended the establishment of OIC Women Consultative Council that will contribute to the enhancement of women’s role in Islamic countries.

Since its establishment, the Council has worked on many important projects. The overarching goal of these efforts has been to empower women in OIC countries and discuss their problems.

One of the most beneficial project of the Council, which was undertaken by Turkey, is a leadership program for young women and girls. The ALLY for Future leadership program aims to develop leadership capacity of young Muslim women within the Islamic world, to broaden their vision, to equip them with the tools and skills necessary to face the challenges of future. 55 young bright Muslim women from 45 countries joined the program, which we hope will repeat every year and a half with the support of the OIC Secretariat and the Member States.

We consider that the programs including ALLY for Future are of great value in order to enable young women in the OIC Member States to be more powerful and self-confident and to reach important positions for shaping the world; and we will maintain our support in this regard.

With these words, I hope that this side event helps break stereotypes. Thank you for your attention.