I have been into woman empowerment and gender equality issues for quite some time. I remember the first time I heard about the term “gender equality”,it was when I started volunteering at the Flying Broom Women’s Film Festival in Ankara. Studying at Ankara University’s Political Sciences Faculty was an advantage too.
After I finished my MA in London and then plopped into the busy business life in Istanbul, I found myself in the middle of the projects related to woman empowerment again. I worked as a communication and event coordinator for EBRD hosted Gender and Employment Workshop gathering activists and businesswomen from all around the world in Istanbul in order to discuss about the barriers to women employment and how to overcome them.
In the meantime I have also had the pleasure to work with Ms. Nur Ger, founder of SUTEKS -a ready to wear export company registered in Turkey- and a real advocate of woman empowerment in all aspects, be it social, economic, political etc… As a unique company SUTEKS made it easy for women employees to balance their professional and private lives by adopting some basic gender equality measures. I wont get into details. But just for you to know; in 2012 SUTEKS was awarded the “Social Gender Equality in Work Life” award in a contest ran by the Turkish Ministry of Labor and Social Security for being a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) in Turkey with the best practice of equal opportunities. And SUTEKS has also become the first Turkish SME signing the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles in 2012 and Ms. Nur Ger received an “honor award” from the United Nations in May 2013.
After this little background of me on gender equality matters, I would like to tell a bit more about a recent project we have successfully implemented with Ms. Nur Ger who is also the Chairwoman of Gender Equality Workiing Group at Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen/Women Association (TUSIAD) . It has been a year since the first time we sat around a table with the TUSIAD team and start discussing about launching a short movie contest for university students in Turkey. There are many contests alike in Turkey, to be honest. The difference this time was that we wanted to narrow the theme down and make it a bit hard for the students . Our theme was for sure “gender equality”. I call it “hard” as it is such a thorny issue in Turkey these days, especially after our President’s quote saying that the gender equality is against nature, baring only the physical differences between men and women .
With this short movie contest, we wanted to see what the young generation get from the term and how they can reflect their opinion through short movies of either 1 or 5 min.
First we formed the jury which consisted of 10 members including famous Turkish actors (Şener Şen, Serra Yılmaz), movie directors (Yavuz Turgul, Tomris Giritlioğlu), movie critics (Uğur Vardan, Alin Taşçıyan) .
Then we worked pretty hard to reach the students. We identified all universities with cinema, TV, fine arts departments. We visited deans of communication, fine arts faculties not only in Istanbul but also in Anatolian cities. We distributed posters all around the city. Used internet and social media to reach more applicants.
At the end of the application process, we received 178 short movies from all around the country.
Finally this project has ended by a really good award ceremony the other day.
After all the hard work and efforts it has been amazing to see all the people including leading business people, journalists, NGO representatives etc. at this wonderful event.
As a team we are pretty happy to having supported this project. It was worth it all.
I believe that in order to make a shift in point of view of a society, it is crucial to start it with the youth. As Ms. Ger mentioned in her speech at the ceremony, “we want to build the future of Turkey with a young generation who knows what “gender equality ” stands for and who believes in the importance of it.”