Turkish Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya on Tuesday stressed the importance of female empowerment and economic development in an address at the UN in New York.
“It is impossible to achieve sustainable development goals without women contribution,” Sayan Kaya said in a meeting of foreign delegates at a women’s summit. “For this reason, it is of vital importance for women to have rightful status in almost all spheres of life.”
Turkey has had an almost “silent revolution” in support of women’s rights and empowerment under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past 15 years, she said.
“During this process, we have established our main policies based on the prevention of all kinds of discrimination against women and have effectively combatted violence against women as well as ensuring women’s empowerment,” she added.
The efforts have borne fruit with ever increasing numbers of female participation across the board in Turkey — soaring school enrollment in the last 15 years, a workforce that has expanded 45 percent and female employment up 75 percent in the 12 years.
The push for greater roles for women has been married with polices that have been implemented to give women greater flexibility in the workforce, including more time for things such as breastfeeding leaves to flexible working hours and better childcare support.
“The great transformation that we have accomplished in the field of health in Turkey has been reflected to women’s health care services as well,” Sayan Kaya said, adding that access to prenatal care is now at 99 percent while 98 percent of childbirth deliveries are made by health care personnel.
But the care and well-being of Turks is not the only concern for Sayan Kaya’s agency.
Turkey currently hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees she described as her country’s “brothers and sisters” and, 71 percent of those are women and children.
“We have provided their basic needs such as education, health, food and shelter. We have used all our means available to relieve the deep wounds inflicted on women and children by war, terrorism and migration. And we still do,” she added.