ISTANBUL: Istanbul Summit Focuses on Women's Perspective for Post-2015 UN Agenda

Sunday, June 1, 2014
Today's Zaman
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General Women, Peace and Security

Nafis Sadik, a special advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and professor Shirley Randell, one of Australia's 100 Inaugural Women of Influence in 2012, were among the participants of an international summit in İstanbul, which kicked off on Saturday with a program dedicated to discussions on a variety of topics, including women's empowerment and food security as part of the United Nations Development Agenda from the perspective of females.

Organized by the Journalists and Writers Foundation's (GYV) Abant Platform and Women Platform, the two-day summit, "Women's Perspective on the Post-2015 Development Agenda," started with an opening ceremony at the congress center of Fatih Koleji. Müşerref Özer, the secretary general of the GYV's Women Platform, delivered a speech during which she elaborated on the reasons why they decided to hold such a summit focusing on the perspective of females. “The United Nations Development Agenda is one of the mostly discussed topics in the world and it is also important for the issues about women. … We would like to develop a point of view where we could bring together multiple ideas together; develop a consistent perspective which does not have negative connotations and lift women from the status of objects to subjects instead of seeing them as existences which must be rescued.”

Sadik who also delivered a speech at the opening pointed out the proper timing for the summit and added governments should take steps to help women gain power in the society in addition to the non-governmental organizations. The advisor underlined the changing world of women and studies would contribute to the process of women's gaining power, adding one of the priorities should be to take action to prevent child marriages.

Following the opening, the first discussion session of the summit titled “Civil Society and Development Goals Started,” where one of the highlighted topics was conducting studies with a more human oriented perspective. Renate Bloem, one of the speakers of the session who is World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS) UN representative of Geneva, talked about the identity problems women suffer. The fact that women are stuck between their professional and family lives and express themselves through the bad treatment they suffer are among the significant topics that needs to be addressed, according to Bloem.

Climate change, food security, sanitation and water scarcity were main topics of the Saturday program's second session “Environmental Dimension.” In her presentation at the session, Jai-Ok Kim, the president of the Green Start Network in Korea, said the climate change has been causing 25 trillion-dollar harm on the world economy and her country is battling against the problem by offering education climate change and environmental issues to more than 500 leaders. “Plans should be done to mitigate the dissemination of greenhouse gas and women have significant roles in establishing this aims,” she said. Another speaker, Dr. Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou, stated “Water scarcity is not only a problem of undeveloped countries but also of developed countries” and added for “Better water management, partnership is needed with neighboring countries.”

Randell gave Rwanda as an example for social change as one million people were cruelly slaughtered in 1994 Rwanda in genocide, following which women had work themselves. “This lead to a huge transformation,” Randell said, who was one of the speakers of the “Social Dimension” session. The professor emphasized the significance of political empowerment of women, recognizing women's equal rights and affirmative action to increase women's representation in the politics and social life elaborating on the examples from Rwanda. The fourth session also included discussions on education, learning skills and providing health sufficient services.

The Sunday's program was wrapped up with a session titled “Economic Dimension,” during which the speakers, Roxanne Alvarez, the grants manager of the United States Foundation, Simita Tewari Jassal, a sociology lecturer from Ankara's Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), and professor Thomas Kesselring, elaborated on the need for women's active participation into the business life, the fight against poverty, questioning gender codes and the statistics about the increasing gap between the rich and the poor globally.