I must say that when my alarm rang at 7:30 this morning I wanted to go back to sleep. I always think some how that it won’t matter if I attend the En/Gendering Foreign Policy conference that I saw on Facebook the night before. I’m just a regular person. It doesn’t matter if I go or not. But I told myself, you should go. It can’t be that bad. And so I went.
The event was held at Kadir Has University and was open to public which is a rare feat. It discussed Gendering Foreign Policy and started at 9:30 in the morning. Unfortunately I arrived late and missed the Welcoming remarks of and comments of Nadezhda Neynsky , Ambassador for the Republic of Bulgaria. But never mind what I missed, let’s concentrate on the ones I had the honor to witness their passion for Gender equality.
I heard the arguments and opinions of 8 speakers on gender equality and 1325 Resolution on women and peace and security, which was adopted on October 31, 2000. The Resolution intention was at the time to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women. It stressed the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping.
The first speaker was Martha Elena Barcena Coqui, the Ambassador for the United Mexican States to Turkey. She spoke about what happen to the families left behind when husbands migrate to USA legally or illegally with the initial thought provide for their family, but somehow along the way, after adapting to life in USA, forget their existence. This migration problem has caused Mexico to have many villages where only women, children and old people reside without good means of survival. The Ambassador said that migration is not a security issue referring to the wall that is being built across the border of México and USA. Adding that politicians need to think about the individuals and the reasons they migrate when designing a foreign policy.
The second speaker was Paivi Kairamo, Finland’s Ambassador to Turkey, who spoke about Finland’s achievements in gender equality and that how the country runs within equal rights. She said that Finland was the first country to pass a law allowing women in 1806 and that woman got the right of maternity leave in 1917. But even living in an equalized country Finland still deals with violence against women and low number of women in corporate life to assume prominent roles said Kairamo. After speaking so eagerly about Finland the Ambassador proudly announced that today, on International women’s day, Finland launched the 1325 Women Peace and Security International Prize Award, the first award of this kind in the world
The Third speaker was Adriana Octavia Ciamba, Consul General of Romania, who started her speech by saying that she was disappointed with the turn up to the event and that she wanted to see more students involved in these matters because without them, gender equality will not be possible. The Consul said that change happens naturally and with the new wave of women graduating with degrees necessary to deal with politics change will happen.
In regards to why more women aren’t in politics, Ciamba believes that its because most women don’t know how much solidarity other women can give. She said that a countries culture can affect gender equality greatly in a negative way. She gave her own country as an example and mentioned Turkey as well that with problems of child marriage. And did not held back on her opinion about women in power acting like man, she believes that a woman’s touch is needed. Which I understood as bringing a different perspective, a more detailed perspective to the table.
Next was Therese Hyden, Consul General of the Kingdom of Sweden. Surprisingly her beginning statement was ‘Go figure who can be a feminist or not’ and that it doesn’t matter if it’s a woman or a man. She told us that the Swedish Government is a feminist government elected by the people and continued by asking the audience about how can a government be feminist? She answered by Sweden accepted that gender equality is the way to go and that because man and women have the same power to decide things in society. There are still set backs in Sweden, such as violence against women and salary inequality and not a lot of women don’t want to grow into more meaningful political positions.
Next was Fatma Ceren Yazgan, Deputy Director General for Security and Intelligence, Ministry of Foreign affairs for the Republic of Turkey. The Deputy began by informing us that currently Turkey has six hundred women in the ministry working with disarmament and other issues. She said that diplomacy can be used in everything in life and that the prince to pay is high for those who want to get in politics like family disagreeing with the decision and, but that eventually they will come along and be proud of accomplishment.
She stated that women are not consensual like many say we has lack ego and that’s why not a lot of women get to be in meaningful roles in politics. Jobs in politics according to Fatma must be earned by merit and not given to fill up quotas. Man and women need to be given equal opportunities on the basis of merit, conversation skills, negotiation skills and logistics. She said that a woman in politics cannot lack in their job, or have sick days because she will be flagged as depressed or fragile.
The second part of the event which was more of an academic discussion about the resolution 1325.
The first to speak was Angela Kane, a German natural, and former UN High representative for disarmament Affairs and Under-Secretary -General for Management in the United Nations in Vienna. She spoke about the resolution 1325 goals , and the need for ‘quotas’. Kane said that she doesn’t think that there is a reason to celebrate Women’s day considering that not much from the resolution has been implemented, and its was adopted 15 years ago. Two of the goals of 1325 were to bring gender perspective and increase attention to the protection of women rights. She believes that prevention of conflict must be a priority not an issue. She repeated Hilary Clinton’s famous phrase “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights”. We must not consider women’s issues as an add on, it’s a must, it has to happen. Perhaps with the creations of more groups, more number of women bringing about issues related to equality, quotas are good because they are measurable and they are possible and they work. She mentioned that only 7 out of 193 countries has a woman as a president or as prime minister right now and that we need more women as senior officials.
Zeynep Alendar, Associate Professor at Okan University, believes that a 1325 Nap project is important for Turkey civil society, this would include in peace building projects, refugees and preventive issues. She said that ten years ago we would not have seen gender issues being discussed in Turkey and that the 1325 resolution changes the strategy in gender equality with women’s participation in resolving issues such as security. The professor stated that women have a lot to say about their role in war because they are soldiers, mothers of soldiers, nurses and occupy many other roles during conflicts and said that foreign policy can be based on gender. She declared that EU wants to bring more women into the political role because they bring up issues that have not been though about before. Zeynep truly believes that women can transform the language of conflict.
Ayşe Betül Çelik, associate professor for the Okan University in Istanbul, spoke specifically about 1325 resolution within the context of Peace Process. She resumed the resolution reasons to why gender is relevant in conflict situations. Because women and children account for the vast majority affected by armed conflicts they have a lot to say about it. They can also participate in the prevention and resolution of conflicts maintaining peace and security.
But what women bring to the table? Well, studies show that the presence of women widens negotiations beyond the issues of military action, power and wealth by incorporating social and humanitarian matters and promotes a non competitive negotiating style, however, from 1992 to 2011 only 2% of women where chief mediators, 4% were witnesses and Signatories, and 9% negotiators. Ayşe stated that we women do not need man deciding matters that affect us women. We need to have a say in it.
Hille Hanso, writer and commentator, refugee relief worker, and gender equality trainer in Istanbul specifically said when implementing gendered foreign policy, cultural and class aspects of other countries should be taken into account as “western white feminism” is not always entirely compatible with other societies. As she spoke about her passion about equality, she quoted her mother who told her years ago ‘once you put on the gender equality glasses you will see many aspects of life through gender perspective,’ which has been the case in her career. As an example of gendered foreign policy, Hille gave a relevant example of the NGO Small Projects Istanbul, which is supported by Estonian Foreign Ministry humanitarian and development aid program and implemented by NGO Mondo. This center is making a difference in the lives of tens of Syrian women refugees through education and income programs, with the aim of empowering vulnerable women and changes their role in the society. She firmly believes that former refugees, who have now become managers and leaders, will take this mind set with them when going back to Syria one day. As she put it: “small scale feminist interventions” cumulatively can have as big as an effect as global campaigns. She also said that displaced women and girls should not only be viewed as a victims but as actors and big potential in peace building. Hille emphasized, that all foreign development aid projects should be gender conscious as gender equality is not only an ethical question but also a serious key to development. Gender in foreign policy and international relations matter, because it brings in different viewpoints to both theory and practice.
I’d say that despite minimum disagreements between the speakers, all agree that little has been done to implement of resolution 1325 to place women into peace negotiations. Perhaps because of gender discrimination or because a lot of women still believe they don’t have enough qualification to apply to bigger roles in politics. Whichever reason it may be, women need to play a bigger part in politics because the only way we will see a more fair and balanced world in my opinion the quotas need to be 50% female and 50% male. I am glad I got out of bed for this.
Written by @Sarah Constance Akkan