Women’s economic empowerment is a pre-condition for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, say government and business leaders in Turkey


Organized by Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TURKONFED) in cooperation with UN Women and UNDP, the “Summit on the Role of Women in Sustainable Development Goals,” brought together the Turkish government and senior executives from different countries of the world in Istanbul to discuss the importance of positioning gender equality and women’s empowerment high on the agenda for sustainable development.

The “Summit on the Role of Women in Sustainable Development Goals” organized by the Turkish Confederation of Business and Industry (TURKONFED) in cooperation with UN Women and UNDP was held in Istanbul with the participation of the Turkish Minister of Development Lütfi Elvan and the Minister of Family and Social Policies Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya. Leaders highlighted the importance of empowering women in all spheres of life and eliminating gender inequality for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Starting with access to education and employment opportunities, we need to empower women in all areas of life. Women shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and their family. We put into practice a lot of initiatives to avoid this confrontation and make women’s motherhood easier,” said Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya.
“Sustainable Development requires a human centered and equitable vision. Investing in women is the most important step for sustainable development,” said Minister Lütfi Elvan.

“In terms of labour force, our economic loss due to the gender gap is equivalent to 25 percent of our GDP. [in Turkey] According to the research that IMF published recently, ‘economic losses in countries, where women are absent amounts to about %30’. Turkey is the only country in Europe where women’s employment is below 40 percent,” said Tarkan Kadooglu, Chairman of the Board of Directors TURKONFED. He emphasized that the active participation of women in economic life raises the level of prosperity of countries and is accepted as the most important indicator of development.

Kadooğlu also explained that informal employment and the situation of women in this informality should also be well analysed and added: “In our country, the rate of women’s informal employment is higher than that of men. According to TURKSTAT 2016 data, 1 out of every 2 women is working informally… Developing gender-responsiveness in income tax practice will be an important gain.”
“As of 2015; 1,112,000 women could not participate in the labor force due to challenges of providing care. The high fees and quality of day-care are important obstacles to women’s participation in the workforce,” emphasized Prof.Dr. Yasemin Açık, the president of TURKONFED Women in Business Commission. “In France, if woman works and her child goes to day-care, 50 percent of the day-care expenses of the child of working women is covered under the tax credit. If the child of a working woman is being cared at home, 30 percent of the wage of the home caregiver is covered by the state. A day-care contribution can be created in our country with a fund that will be created by deducting from the tax burden of women who work and have a child. The obligation of having a day-care can be introduced for large industrial sites, and private sector with a certain number of staff,” said Açık.

Explaining that the SDGs are the essence of the 2030 Development Agenda for all citizens of the world; Irena Vojackova Sollorano, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Turkey, said: “With gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at their core, both as a human right and as a driver of the development, the 17 goals take a multidimensional approach to the achievement of gender equality. Furthermore, there are at least 26 explicit targets for gender equality in the SDGs. In addition to taking concrete measures to advance gender equality in each of these goals, we must also tackle underlying causes such as societal norms and attitudes and gender stereotypes that limit women’s access to education and jobs, and the ability of both men and women to transcend gender roles.”

Emphasizing that gender equality and the empowerment of women are the primary means of “sustainable and inclusive development” Meral Güzel, Empower Women Europe and Central Asia Regional Coordinator of UN Women, said: “Gender equality is taken up by two dimensions in the 2030 Agenda. The first is SDG 5 that emphasizes ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women. This goal includes the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls. Achieving gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving the other sixteen goals. It is proven time and again that the empowerment of women and girls has a “multiplier effect” and accelerates economic growth, and development in all spheres of life. We can achieve these goals only through successful and resolute cooperation.”
Emphasizing that the private sector, which provides a large part of the world’s employment, is a very important stakeholder in the economic empowerment of women, Güzel said: “We, as UN Women, provide support with many programs, which develop private sector, to enable women to take part in all sectors and all levels of economic life. Among these, the leading and most important one is Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), which is a joint programme of UN Women and UN Global Compact.”
Stating that private sector plays an important role for the achievement of SDGs, Güzel said: “The private sector can implement inclusive recruitment and promotion policies to support women’s empowerment in economic life, develop women’s labour force and allocate procurement expenditure to businesses owned by women. The private sector will gain from taking these actions.”

During the Summit, in the light of the SDGs; four panels were organized with themes “Quality Training Strategies for Sustainable Development,” “The Future of the Industry in Sustainable Development,” “Responsible Production and Consumption for Sustainable Development,” and “Peace and Strong Institutions for Sustainable Development.”
Leading executives of the national and international business world participated in the panels and emphasized women’s and girls’ economic empowerment and quality education for sustainable development.
Participants acknowledged that women and girls have obstacles in accessing quality education and agreed that initiatives and measures to provide equal opportunities to access inclusive and equitable quality education contribute to women’s empowerment.
Following the Summit, TURKONFED published policy recommendations to empower women across all spheres of life in Turkey

Source: UNWomen