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A group of female workers located in the United States, lost their lives on the 8th of March 1857 during the battle they started, demanding equal pay for equal work, eight hour work days and maternity leave. In 1908 fifteen thousand female workers marched for their right to vote, maternity leave and shorter work hours. Chanting “we want bread and roses too,” these women demanded their social right to live full and fulfilling lives. Today, the 8th of March stands as the day where we address the route of women’s issues; gender inequality, the need to eradicate all discrimination against women, and the necessary eradication of violence against women.

What are gender and gender equality?

The sex of an individual is determined at birth as either male or female. Although the male and female sex differs biologically, this difference is inadequate in explaining the gender roles prescribed to each sex in daily life. Therefore the roles and responsibilities prescribed to masculinity and femininity is called gender. Examples such as the fact that women receive less education, their professional stunting, their inability to take their place in social life, the lack of women in certain careers, and women’s inability to utilize their basic human rights equally cannot be explained by sex but instead by gender.  The ability for an individual to access all rights and opportunities equally and independent of sex is defined as gender equality.

If we turn our attention to our country’s status regarding gender;

Our country has adopted gender equality as a policy with the founding of the Republic and has externalized this in its institutions. Through the constitution, the responsibility of gender equality was placed in the hands of the state. By signing the UN’s 1985 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, and the 2014 Ýstanbul Convention, also known as “The Council of Europe Convention, Action against violence against women and domestic violence” our country has become party to these regulations. On the national level, through the implementation of the Turkish Civil Code (2002), the Penal Code (2005) and article 6284 “The Protection of the Family and the Prevention of Violence Against Women Statute” (2012) many egalitarian regulations were brought to life. For years our country has implemented projects and other activities to provide gender equality, allowing individuals’ access to their rights and freedoms independent of sex. However, whether through practice, interpretation or decision the reality of  gender equality falls short of expectations.

According to the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, our country ranks 130th amongst 149 countries.  Throughout the years the gap between men and women’s ability to use their basic human rights widens to the detriment of women. Over the course of the last 10 yearsinequality has risen and our place has fallen behind other countries. According to 2017 Turkish Statistical Institute data, the rate of illiterate women in Turkey is 5 times higher than that of men. Only one in three women have the ability to join the workforce. If we look at the subgroups of the report, Turkey ranks 131st in women’s ability to join the work force, 113th in contribution to the decision making process, 113th in access to 106th in educational opportunities, and 67th in health.

Recently the concept of gender has been brought to the forefront of social consciousness in “incomprehensible” and different ways. It is important for “decision makers” as well as society and all sectors including “media,” to fully understand the notion of societal gender equality and recognize it as a basic human right. Attempts to strip this notion of its meaning must be seen as an intervention and violation of human rights.

We Health Service Providers; cannot remain silent in light of the “conflation” of gender, an issue that involves the health of both sexes, and an issue that affects women profoundly. It is imperative to remember that the 90th Article of the Constitution, signed by the Turkish Government and approved by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, dictates adherence to international laws. It is difficult to understand why the issue of “gender” has become an issue of debate in the last few days, especially in a country that is one of the first signees of the Istanbul Convention, where gender is clearly defined.

As a result; data shows that when it comes to gender equality in our country, our agenda is full. 2018 has been a year where in discrimination against women and equality has become deeper rooted; effecting not only everyday lives but also practices, where the murder of women has become routine, where women have been pushed out of the public sphere and workforce; as a result becoming trapped in the home, where legislation attempting to set the legal groundwork for child marriages and even the very understanding of social gender equality was questioned through the “media” in our country. 

The United Nation’s determined “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” as the theme for 2019. This theme aims to focus on the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women by creating sustainable groundwork within systems of social protection and access to public services. We are together for another year in order to empower women in rural and urban settings, and to improve their health to be equal to that of men with the same level of income and education level.

We remain hopeful for an egalitarian life, free of gender based discrimination.

We wish everyone a happy “Women’s Day.”

The Public Health Specialists Association

The Gender and Women’s Health Working Group

The Eighth of March is the name given to the struggle for gender equality.

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