Press Centre 2010/04/16: General Information

Equal Opportunities and Gender Equality: Experiences in Italy and Turkey

The “Equal opportunities and gender equality: experiences in Italy and Turkey” conference, organized by the Embassy of Italy in Turkey and the Italian Institute of Culture in Ankara, with the support of  the United Nations Turkey Country Team, Unicredit Group and Yapı Kredi, took place on April 15th at Rixos Hotel in Ankara.The conference started with the opening speeches of the State Minister responsible for Women and Family Selma Aliye Kavaf and  the Italian Minister of Equal Opportunities Maria Rosaria Carfagna.

During his speech, Reza Hossaini, UNICEF Turkey Representative and the Chair of the UN Youth, Gender and Civic Engagement Thematic Group, focused on issues of women rights and inequality throughout the world.

Speaking a the opening Reza Hossaini said “Two major drivers of the UN work on Gender are Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Millennium Development Goal 3- on Promotion of Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.”

Read the full speech of Reza Hossaini

The CEDAW that came into force in 1981 is at the core of UN global mission of peace, development and Human Rights. The legal Obligations contained in the convention flow from the principle of Equal Rights and Dignity for Every Human Being.

The message of CEDAW and MDG are very clear, equality and opportunity are inalienable rights of every girl and women and that women's empowerment is an economic and social imperative.
Until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice, all our goals -- peace, security, sustainable development -- stand in jeopardy.
Some progress has been made since ratification of CEDAW 30 years ago.

  • A growing number of countries have policies and legislation that support gender equality and reproductive health.
  • Most girls now receive an education, particularly at primary level.
  • Women are now more likely to run businesses and be given loans.
  • Women are also now more likely to participate in politics.

And equally if not more important, women’s voices are heard much more than before, be it  political platform or against tyranny and injustice..
But unfortunately the progress across the globe has not been even and certainly not in all field, in some areas, we have only managed to bring out the issues out of the shadow and just create a momentum for action.

  • Women form a giant share of global illiteracy, two out of three.
  • Nearly seventy percent of the world's poorest people are female.
  • In only 16 countries in the world is women's representation in national parliaments above 25 percent.
  • Women's contributions to the global economy are growing rapidly but their labour remains undervalued and undercounted in national accounts.
  • Up to 70 per cent of girls women experience violence in their lifetime, most commonly at home by the very people who are supposed to protect them.
  • Women represent a growing proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS.

And the list goes on…… Injustice and discrimination against girls & women persists everywhere.
During the course of the day, our distinguished speakers and facilitators will further shed lights on issues like gender equality, women participation and violence against women, but in the couple of minutes I have with you, allow me to touch upon the issue of “ Equal opportunities”
Equality of opportunity should start from birth, no actually birth is already too late, it should start from the time the baby’s sex is detected in the mother’s womb. Because that is when inequality of opportunity starts.

Sadly,  That is when the decision is made whether a girl should live or not!
Over the past decade or so, about 100 millions baby girls have disappeared and the number is increasing..
Imagine a young couple expecting their first child and they are part of the new middle class; their income is rising and want a small family.
Imagine they have access to ultrasound scan and can easily afford the 10 to 20 dollars cost and the scan says the unborn child is a girl….. and that is where the inequality of opportunity starts for some as for millions of couples, the answer is: abort the daughter, try for a son. 
Yes, in some society and not necessarily poor communities of China or India but in places like Singapour and Taiwan women are missing in their millions—aborted, killed, neglected to death.
This inequality of opportunities continues when the girl is born, they are less likely to be breastfed as much as their brothers, they are more likely to receive less care and early stimulation and often are more malnourished than boys. These inequality and discrimination weakens the very foundation girls need to compete on equal footing when they get into school.

As girls grow and enter schools, the chances of dropping out and not completing school is much higher among girls than boys and this ratio becomes even worse at higher grades. These discrimination and inequalities continues throughout the life cycle of the women.

In an environment like this, it is unfair to expect from women to compete with men even if they are given equal opportunities. We need to ensure equal opportunity from start by creating a levelled playing field.

We need to break this vicious cycle that starts from home and goes all the way up to the corridors of power including our parliaments.

From parents to politicians, they have to realize that socioeconomic growth and development is possible only when girls and women are enabled to truly and fully participate, contribute and benefit from the growth.  
We in the UN are committed to leveling the playing field for girls and women by ensuring that all people, irrespective of age, sex, race have equal opportunity to develop their potentials.”

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