Women’s views will be missing in new Turkish gov’t model
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An important opportunity to increase the number of women parliamentarians for equal representation has been missed, according to the head of women’s NGO. “These elections are very important because Turkey will be governed by a different model,” said Sanem Oktar Ögüt, the president of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGİDER). “Women’s views will lack in the new government model,” she added.
How do you react to women’s place among the candidates of political parties?
Turkey has set growth and development targets. It aims to become richer. While a new system is being established, the representation of women is below the critical mass of 30 percent. In other words, women will remain below the critical mass in the decision-making process.
The numbers in the lists of political parties are there. With 38 percent, Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) has the highest ratio of women candidates.
But what also matters is from where and with which ranking women have been shown as candidates. We have to also look with which probability women candidates will be elected to the parliament. Currently, 15 percent of the MPs are women and this is way below when you compare it with other countries. This was an important opportunity to increase the number of women MPs.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has not shown a single woman candidate from 29 cities and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) from 33 cities. Not a single candidate from a whole city?
There are only 33 women in the first three positions of the AKP and that number is 30 for the CHP.
Just as is the case in Turkey on other things, we make it look as if we are doing what are supposed to do. If you ask the question to political parties, whether they have women candidates, the answer is positive. But how about the probability for their election to parliament? Political parties need to be honest; women need to be shown as candidates from the positions where they can be elected.
Can you make an evaluation in terms of how each political party has fared?
All political parties have failed the test. The HDP has the highest ratio. But why is it 38 percent? Why is it not 50 percent?
What is this telling us? The HDP has mainly a Kurdish constituency. Does that mean they have internalized more gender equality? How come other parties, which have so many differences, look alike when it comes to women candidates?
ı think for all of them, the outlook takes shape at the top levels. I wish political preferences were based on a process not from top to bottom but from bottom to top. Political parties’ top organs are preparing the lists. The many different attributes of the electoral system, like the 10 percent threshold for instance, do not help.
It is the parties’ top echelons that shape what happens in the lower echelons. If you put a target at the top, that’s how the rest positions itself. This is the case in work life too. Why are there more women in certain companies? Because the CEO decides to increase the number of women employees and brings in a quota giving preference to female applicants in case there are similar CVs in applications for the job. For instance, the CEO says there needs to be a ratio of women employees around 35 percent and the rest of the company moves in that direction.
As usual it is our fault! Women cannot be the head of a department because they are not good enough; because they do not want to work, etc.
Put the blame on women. I think this is a very simplistic approach. There are many woman candidates in the field who work a lot but are already eliminated in the nomination process. When there is a will, there is a way.
The real issue here should be why we need to do it. This is not a favor provided by one to the other. When you look at the World Economic Forum’s Development Index, we rank below among 144 countries while the ones at the top are those who have women in their parliament in their political leadership.
Do you think politicians are not aware of these facts?
They are all aware but no one wants to easily transfer their power. The world is changing; there are pioneers of change as well as those who resist change. But the ones who will invest in the future, in women, and in democracy will win at the end of the day.
But politicians will tell you politics reflects society and the place of women is not higher in other walks of life such as in the workforce, arts or sports.
Thirty-three percent of women are in the work force. The employment ratio is 28 percent. But we are targeting to increase these numbers. The official target is 41 percent. So, there is the official vision of increasing women’s participation in labor to 41 percent but political parties remain at 20 percent when it comes to women MPs.
Did you have a chance to look at the campaign promises? What would you say about that?
For the past five or six years, there has been talk about gender equality in party politics. All give importance to women’s participation in the economy. When it was the president of the G20, Turkey proposed to found the W20. But what matters here is not only saying it but also making it happen. To take action. Had politicians been genuine about it, the ratio of women candidates would not be that low. So, these numbers do not reflect the promises.
What will you say about the performance of the last parliament on women issues?
I can talk about work life. There was a law we have been working on for a long time on child care, which keeps women away from employment. An amount between 150 to 300 liras will be given to women who give birth to send their children to a daycare center and this amount will be deduced from the tax of the employer. The law has passed. We are also working with the relevant ministry to increase the number of accessible, affordable and trustworthy child care centers.
But of the 55 billion lira worth incentive package, only 5 billion was earmarked for youth and women. Why not half of it? In the incentive package, there are no measures to keep women in the work force. So, we need more result-oriented action.
How do you evaluate the performance of women MPs?
There are many active women in all political parties. But there is a question mark on whether they are coming together independent of their parties and working together. They know the problems but they have a problem with taking action and solving them. While they are a minority in their parties, they do not come together and join forces.
WHO IS SANEM OKTAR ÖĞÜT?
Sanem Oktar Öğüt’s career started in Colgate Palmolive in 1993 and she established her first company Tribeca Communications in 1997.
In 1999, she founded Tribal Sales & Marketing Support Services and in 2002, she founded her database marketing company, directComm. Most recently, she founded Limonsocial in 2011.
In 2015, WPP announced that GroupM, the leading global media investment group, had acquired a majority stake in directComm, and recently Öğüt became a partner and CEO of Wunderman Istanbul.
A serial entrepreneur; Öğüt was one of the Top Ten Women Enterpreneurs of Turkey in 2010; her numerous work and projects have been awarded many times.
Since May 2015, she has been president of KAGIDER and also a member of the W20 Steering Committee.