Girls will take a transformative role in rebuilding the cities affected by the earthquake

The International Day of the Girl Child Conference, which has been organized in Türkiye in cooperation with UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, and Aydın Doğan Foundation since 2015, was held in Hatay, one of the cities affected the most by the February 6 earthquake

11 October 2023
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UNICEF/UNI451297

Hatay, 11 October 2023 - The International Day of the Girl Child Conference, organized for the 9th time this year in cooperation with UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, and Aydın Doğan Foundation, was held on October 11th with the participation of representatives of civil society organizations and youth.

At the conference hosted and moderated by journalist Afşin Yurdakul, the President of Aydın Doğan Foundation Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ stated the following in her opening speech: "As organizations that have been making efforts focusing on the empowerment of girls for many years, we are delighted with the developments in our country and on a global scale. However, as in the case of the pandemic and the earthquake, the profound and unexpected social incidents affect girls and women first and foremost. From the first moments of the disaster on February 6, we have been on the field, working to hear the voices of girls and women and to make them heard. We are in Hatay to understand the challenges girls encounter as they 'rebuild the future' and to create new solutions and support mechanisms to overcome them. Although they are deprived of their most fundamental rights such as safety, health, and education for a period of time, girls who hold on to life and do not give up on their dream of a better world are the true leaders of today and of this transformation journey. Today, we will hear their wishes, expectations, and goals, and we will support their dreams. Thus, while girls will build the strong and bright tomorrows they deserve, our society and our world will also gain enlightenment and prosperity".

In the joint session with Aydın Doğan Foundation President Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ, UNICEF Türkiye Representative Paolo Marchi, UNFPA Türkiye Representative Hassan Mohtashami and UN Women Türkiye Country Director Asya Varbanova, the challenges and threats encountered by girls and young women were discussed in light of the assessments made in the region following the February 6 earthquakes.

Noting that Aydın Doğan Foundation mobilized to help and support the region from the first moment they received news of the earthquake, Yalçındağ stated the following: "As Aydın Doğan Foundation, we will be here with our entire ecosystem until life in the earthquake zone returns to the way it was before February 6.We will say "continue life, continue education”.. We will continue to work to touch the lives of the people here, especially children, young girls and youth".

Paolo Marchi, UNICEF Türkiye Representative stated: " As we mark the International Day of the Girl, under the theme of “Girls Rebuilding the Future”, we heard young people’s voices, their needs, and aspirations in building back better, resilient, youth-friendly and gender-responsive cities. With our partners, we reaffirmed our commitment to invest in young people’s meaningful engagement in the recovery. This means that women and children are not just passive recipients of the aid but active participants in rebuilding the future. This is exactly why we are focusing on girls’ leadership in their communities on this particular day. UNICEF strongly believes in supporting girls’ empowerment and hence we continue working towards their meaningful engagement. I call on everyone to join us on this day to expand collaborations with young people for the common vision of gender equality".

UNFPA Türkiye Representative Hassan Mohtashami stated: "Adolescent girls are often ignored during times of natural disasters. These girls, traumatized, constrained by traditions, separated from school and family structures and familiar social networks, mayremain invisible in crowds. While protection risks are increasing, there are reports of increased gender-based violence, exploitation, and abuse, including child, early, and forced marriages. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will continue to follow effective response methods to rebuild girls' lives after disasters to meet their needs and to respect their rights, and will continue to do what is needed on the field and what it does best: respond to the sexual and reproductive health and reproductive health needs of women and girls, including their requests for protection from gender-based violence".

UN Women Türkiye Country Office Director Asya Varbanova stated the following: "On International Day of the Girl Child, we appreciate the extraordinary resilience shown by adolescent girls and young women encountering different challenges after the devastating earthquakes. It is of vital importance to advocate for women's full and effective participation in all phases of post-earthquake recovery against increasing risks, from violence against women and girls to the threat of early child marriage. We strategically invest in a resilient and equitable future by prioritizing girls' rights and leadership. Our gender-responsive recovery approach highlights the importance of preventing gender-based violence, promoting transformative livelihoods, and increasing participation in disaster recovery. We believe that empowering girls and young women is crucial for creating vibrant and thriving cities. Engaging them in rebuilding efforts as key actors and leaders will promote positive change within communities. Our commitment to girls must be more than emergency aid because it is an investment in a future where gender equality is the cornerstone of societal well-being".

There is a call from the youth...

The 6th of the youth workshops organized every year before the International Day of the Girl Child was held this year with the theme of 'reconstruction for equitable cities'. The youth expressed their emerging needs especially after the earthquake and their expectations for the cities being rebuilt. The movie about the works conducted by the young people before the conference was watched with interest by all the guests.

The Youth Declaration, which was prepared in accordance with the needs and requests voiced by the youth, was also read by Eda Yabancı and Erce Bilgen, who serve as the Coordinators of the Eşitlik için Gençlik Grubu (Youthfor Gender). "We have all passed through a very difficult period as a country. Youth and children have been the most affected group in this period. We are ready to assume responsibility for the design and building process from now on. Please remember that we are always here as your closest working partners. Trust us and invest in us. The youth who said, "This is the only way that inclusive, accessible, and equitable cities can be built," concluded the declaration by saying, "We are adolescents, we are youth, we are valuable, we are strong and we are here".

Afşin Yurdakul and World Record Holder national athlete Şahika Ercümen were the guests of the special session moderated by Gözde Atasoy, in which inspiring women and young people chatted. Eda Erdem, Turkish National Volleyball player and the captain of the National Volleyball Team, also participated in the inspiring women's session with a video message to the youth.

Media contacts

Tülay Güler
Communication Officer
UNICEF in Türkiye
Tel: +90 532 773 71 96

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