Editorial by Consul Green On International Women's Day
March 8, 2009
Sabah Daily's Regional Supplement
At a ceremony marking the conclusion of the U.S. Embassy-supported “Anatolian Sultans’” literacy course in Adiyaman a few weeks ago, one of the participants, a middle-aged woman who before October had not been able even to read signs on a dolmuş, said “Never again can a man say that women can’t do anything.” March 8, International Women’s Day, is an occasion to remind ourselves not only that women are capable of achieving anything that men can, but that our societies can only become democratic and prosperous when women participate as equals.
As Ataturk said, “If men and women do not walk together towards a society’s common goals, it is utterly impossible for them to develop and prosper.”
Promoting women's political and economic participation is an important element of U.S. foreign policy and, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has said, “it is important to recognize that expanding the circle of opportunity and the democratic potential of our own society as well as those across the world is a continuing process of inclusion.” As a further indication of Secretary Clinton’s commitment, during her visit to Ankara she met with leaders of women’s non-governmental organizations to discuss their goals and aspirations. This meeting will be broadcast on NTV’s “Haydi Gel Bizimle Ol.”
The United States’ commitment to support women’s empowerment extends beyond words. We have supported educational, economic, and professional opportunities for women throughout the world, with a focus on strengthening non-governmental organizations.
This year the United Nations has made the theme of International Women’s Day, “Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls.” This theme perfectly matches the work the United States and Turkey have accomplished in recent years to combat domestic violence, honor-related crimes and human trafficking. Turkish citizens are also taking responsibility for protecting at-risk women, as is evidenced by the growth of women’s organizations in the last ten years.
The U.S. mission in Turkey is supporting literacy training conducted by the Anatolian Women’s Association in Adiyaman as well as training programs run by the Kadin Merkezi (KAMER) in Diyarbakir and Bingol and the Lifehouse Solidarity Association in Urfa. These organizations are committed to the idea that full and equal participation of women in political, economic, and social life is a prerequisite for democratic development. These important pillars of civil society, and dozens of others like them, accomplish these goals by providing information on legal rights, counseling for victims of domestic violence, vocational training, and assistance for women starting businesses. These organizations are also working with the police and local government officials to raise awareness of domestic violence issues and offer their services when incidents occur. They are also collaborating with municipality officials to pool resources and brain power to launch women’s economic development projects in city suburbs.
The UN’s declaration calls on women and men to be united in the struggle against violence. In my discussions with Turkish and American women’s organizations, their leaders frequently cite the need to educate men on women’s rights as one of the biggest obstacles to ensuring that legal equality is respected in practice, and that incidents of violence are reported and dealt with by the judicial system.
As men, we need to use the occasion of International Women’s Day to remind ourselves of our own responsibilities to ensure that women – in our families, our work-places and in our social lives – are accorded the respect and the opportunities they deserve to become partners in building a democratic, prosperous future.