Did you say empowering women?

Did you say empowering women?

The Boyner Group, one of the leading companies in the non-food retail sector, announced recently that it was cooperating with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) to support women entrepreneurs in the supply chain.

The Boyner Group is one of the first companies in Turkey that signed the UN’s “Women’s Empowerment Principles.” The number of companies that agreed on these principles is around 20, I think. 

Among major groups such as Boyner, Sabancı and Borusan, there are also small and medium sized enterprises like Suteks in the textile sector and Aras in the cargo sector. 

One should not underestimate the social dimension of the private sector’s efforts to empower women, especially in the business world. For example, a project Borusan Holding is conducting with the Ministry of Family and Social Policies includes the opening of crèches in industry zones. 

With the opening of day care centers, more women are able to work, or, in other words, be “empowered.”
However, there is a long road ahead of us in the empowerment of women with business life. 

According to Dimitris Tsitsigaros, Deputy Head of the IFC, only 22 percent of full time workers in Turkey are women. Women in top management positions are found only in 5 percent of Turkish companies. Among executive boards of the companies in Borsa Istanbul, only 11 percent of them are women. 

In the “Gender Gap” report of the World Economic Forum, Turkey is 125th among 142 countries. Ever since the Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995, I am interested in this issue and I think women’s empowerment should use an integrated approach.

Women’s empowerment should be hand in hand with social, political and employment fields so that it works. In a country where one in every three marriages involves a “child bride,” where only one minister among 26 cabinet ministers is a woman, then what good is the empowering of women in working life alone? 

While the Boyner Group has taken steps to empower women in its supply chain, the Constitutional Court has decided to annul the clause penalizing couples who have religious weddings before official matrimonies and the imams involved. 

Former head of the Constitutional Court Mustafa Bumin summed up the meaning of this decision with these words: “With this decision, many people will not even have an official matrimony. With only a religious wedding, legal issues concerning the paternity of the child and alimony will increase. This will be against both women and children.” 

Women’s organizations are concerned that with such a decision, the number of “child brides” will increase. 
As a matter of fact, the words of Family and Social Policies Minister Ayşenur İslam also confirm these concerns: “With this decision, we, as the ministry, should make a renewed effort to prevent unofficial weddings of children under 18.”   

A recent news story shows us how dramatic the decision of the high court is in terms of child brides. In the case of child bride Kader Erten, who was wed at the age of 12 in Siirt and found dead at home at the age of 14, the imam who conducted the ceremony and members of her family will be exempt from penalty. 

This decision of the Constitutional Court is nothing more than making women less powerful in a country like Turkey where gender inequality is at its peak.