Verbatim transcript of the speech delivered by HE Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey on the occasion of the Official Launch of Women-20 in Ankara on 6 September 2015

Distinguished Women 20 Delegates,
Respected guests,

First of all good morning.

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you all, not only to Turkey but to this historic event. It is a historic event because it is the first meeting of Women 20 which is a new initiative under G20 umbrella. Initiated by Turkey during Turkish Presidency. We are proud of this initiative. For several reasons this is a historic meeting. First of all, change of the mentality. Then the operational aspect of this initiative. Without changing the mentality it is difficult to change the history. And without changing our main approach how we see woman in history, it is difficult to discuss gender equality.

Throughout the history, unfortunately women have been seen as the object, as the affected side of the flow of history. And men have been seen as if they are the only ones who run history, who take decisions, who decides what will happen in the history for humanity and who lead the historical flow. G20 is the driver of global economy. So in this platform, the absence of women means the continuity of this mentality, the old mentality that only men can decide what the future will be. With this initiative, we want to make a radical change in this understanding and the mentality. Man and woman, they are equal beings created by God, and they have the same right and duties, and responsibilities and power for the future of humanity. It is also very important to see that usually women are those who are paying the price for the decisions taken by men. They are the victims of wars. They are those who have to take care of children and orphans after the wars. I always say there are two indications, barometers of a country regarding the happenings of the people of that country. Whenever you reach a country look at the airport, if the airports are dynamic, moving, people are coming and going, it means there is stability, there is prosperity. And the second indication is the face of women in that country. If women are smiling in that country, if you walk in the streets of that country and look at the face of the women if they are smiling, if they are looking for a better world then you can be sure that that country is happy. Prosperity could be understood only by the airports or electricity or other means but happiness could be seen in the face of the women of that country.

I cannot forget four faces of four different women from different countries. One was four years ago, when we went to Somalia, together with Prime Minister Erdoğan then, our President now, with our families we have seen the faces of women. Hopeless. And those mothers, who lost their children. I still remember one lady who lost her baby maybe 3-4 months old because of the absence of enough water in a very small tent. Then we decided to help Somalia, in order to change the destiny of Somalia and the destiny of women of Somalia and today Turkey is in Somalia in every field, to build hospitals, schools, streets, houses and to take care of orphans. There are thousands of Somalian students now in Turkey taking education.

Another lady, a young girl last year during Ramadan, when we went to refugee camp, I remember a girl around 17 years old, we were with my wife in a hospital tent in refugee camp and she escaped from Syria, a country of turmoil after a bombardment and one of her legs was amputated, and she lost her leg. You could see in her face all the bad memories of all Syrian people. A young girl, a beautiful young girl, like our daughters, who had dreams 3-4 years ago, did not only lose those dreams but did lost her leg and her happiness. She was asking only for an orthopaedic leg from us and we helped, and we will continue to help.

Now, 3 days ago a photograph has affected all of us deeply. Aylan, a 3 year old boy, you could imagine we didn’t see, but you could just imagine what was last minutes of the mother of that boy were like. I am sure she tried to save her sons Galib and Aylan, I’m sure she did everything in the middle of the waters, just to rescue her children. I spoke together with my wife to Abdullah al Kurdi, his father, who escaped from Syria as a family and with our help he returned back to Syria as an individual with the dead bodies of his family. Who is responsible for this? Only those people who escaped from Syria? Today in Europe and many other places they are being seen as if they are criminals. They  had to take this journey due to vital necessity rather than migrate to the prosperous heaven of Europe. I am sure for all Syrian people the real heaven is their own country, their home. They wouldn’t leave their country if they were not forced to do so. They wouldn’t go to Aegean Sea to go to Europe if they weren’t pushed and oppressed by a terrorist regime and by a terrorist group. You could see if you go from here to Syrian refugee camps you can see the destiny of Syria in the face of women. Only women can understand what the price of a war is. Usually nobody creates a hero out of those women. If we a heroic human being, usually it is a man. In fact the real heroes of history are women who courageously pay the price of the decisions being taken by men. And we are grateful to all those women who carried this burden on behalf of all humanity.

Another face this year in Ramadan, I visited a house for Iftar in Ankara, a refugee house of those who escaped from Tal Afar from Iraq. Again a lady, carrying all the burden of Iraq was hosting three families around fifteen or twenty people in a small house. Every day she was responsible to prepare dinner for those families with a small amount of money. She is carrying all the mistakes being committed in Iraq.

Lastly, in July we were in Srebrenica. For the 20th commemoration of Srebrenica event. After the ceremony, an old lady was raising her voice to me saying “Ahmet Bey, Ahmet Bey” in Bosniac way of Turkish. She didn’t know Turkish. I looked at her face, around eighty years old. She said that she is grateful to Turkey because of receiving all the refugees from Bosnia in the war. And she said that if Turkey is strong we are safe here, if you are weak we are hopeless. And that lady lost her husband and two of his sons in Srebrenica. She invited us to her house,. And in her house still there were bullet marks, and she told us what she lived during Srebrenica. I could imagine what have had happened but what she told us was really disturbing and killing our heart, she said that her husband and two of her sons were taken from them, from the crowd, and they didn’t see them again anytime in history.

This is really painful, in such a happy occasion I wouldn’t make you upset, but we should not forget that women should not be just an affected object of history but women should be the leading power and the leading subject of history. Without us emphasising this and without us giving opportunity to ladies who are the symbol of mercy, then oppression, aggression, violence will continue to be imposing their conditions on us. But if we make reference to the mercy of ladies, of women, then there will be a much more just economic order in the world, a peaceful political order, and more important a real human conscious. Now we need your contribution, we need your sense and conscience of humanity, we need your mercy, and G20 needs your contribution for a just economic global order.

Therefore, when we decided to have G20 Presidency, I was the Minister of Foreign Affairs then, we decided to emphasise certain points and principles. One of them was inclusiveness, the others investment and implementation. Inclusiveness is a concept which I like most and it is the remedy of many things, many problems today. Why do we have political problems, for example in Syria, in Iraq? Because UN Security Council was not able to take necessary decisions on time. Why? Because five permanent states decides what will be happening, and these five states, I respect them as individual states, but they are not paying the price what is happening in Syria and Iraq. We are paying the price as the neighbours of Syria. Those 2 million refugees didn’t go to those P5 states, they came to Turkey. They went to Lebanon, to Jordan, but these five states can decide on everything and neighbouring countries just had to prepare refugee camps for those who are escaping those states. There should be an inclusive process of resolution and peace-making in the UN system. If there is an economic problem in Africa, if African nations are not participating in the economic decision making processes, then this is not inclusive. Inclusiveness is one of the basic concepts of future plans, projects for all of us. And inclusiveness in that sense is not only important for the inclusivity of all countries but inclusivity of all human beings, ladies and men, young and old, rich and poor, and all type of human beings should be included to decision making process. Therefore we decided to establish this engagement group W20. As Ambassador Sinirlioğlu mentioned at the beginning, there were certain concerns whether another additional mechanism would be beneficial for G20 process or not but history will see, coming years will prove that this was a right decision and this meeting will be inscribed, not only to the history of G20 but in the history of humanity that without women participation there could not be future of global economy. Usually we make references to certain important issues in every meeting but if we do not act properly according to these references, then those references will not be meaningful. Therefore the principle of implementation is important.

In many meetings which I have participated there is always a reference to gender equality and woman empowerment but, another “I”, implementation is also important to achieve this goal, otherwise we will just talk in beautiful conference halls like this one, but we will not be seeing the faces of ladies from Somalia as I mentioned from Syria, from Iraq, from Bosnia, from other parts of the world who are paying the price of all these historic crises and transformations. Last year, I was proud to attend high level meeting at the United Nations on gender equality and woman empowerment on 6th of March, two days before the International Women’s Day, I remember as the Turkish Prime Minister I was the only male keynote speaker at the podium. I underlined this, I said there should have been others to speak as keynote speaker, and no other leader took decision and spared some time to come to New York to address on this issue gender equality and woman empowerment. I was the only male leader, there were two other leaders our counterpart, and here I am proud my dear friend OECD Secretary-General Angel is here as another man to speak to you and first of all as men equal to women we have to add with effect that history will be shaped by all human beings, not alone by men or by women. Like at home we have to be shoulder to shoulder in economy, in the universities, in schools, everywhere, in all segments of society. I am looking forward to attend UN Summit in New York to adopt the post 2015 development agenda later this month where gender equality issues will also be discussed. Also when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs, one of the initiative which I really still remember and be proud of is that in 2010, I was Chairman of Council of Europe’s Ministerial Committee, another Turkish initiative during our Chairmanship was to prepare a convention on preventing and combatting violence against women. During our Presidency in Council of Europe, we have prepared a document International Convention how to prevent and combat violence against women and this convention is today called Istanbul Convention and Turkey was the first country to sign and ratify. This shows that as a country of strong tradition, a tradition going back to the first village and human settlement in history, which was established in Turkey as you know, in my hometown Çatalhöyük. I am sure in that first village, first human settlement ladies were running the life, not the men. From that time even in our families, in traditional families in Konya, ladies are the real decision makers of the family. Usually men are seen strong to decide for other things but all the significant decisions of the family are being taken by women. This is the fact of life in many families. Since I am not aware of some of the needs of children, whenever our children want to get a permission from me, usually they are not able to take permission from their mother, they come to me but my oldest daughter was putting her hands to my face and say “please don’t turn your face to my mother, decide yourself” because she knows very well that for any decision I will look at her mother and she will give me a signal what should be the decision for the permission. So children know that real decision makers at home are ladies. Why not the ladies be the real decision makers in the world? This is the reason why we initiated the W20 and I am proud that we also have meetings, Youth 20, Civil 20, which is another indication of inclusiveness as you have seen in the video that Youth, Women, SMEs they all should be part of the process.

There are many things to be done today regarding gender equality in global affairs. Let me share some statistical figures. In G20 countries, female labour force participation rate is 56% compared to 86% for men. So there is still a gap, and we as the G20 leaders last year in Brisbane have committed ourselves to reduce this gap by 25% by 2025. We have to close this gap in order to create a new power in our economies and to make some positive encouragement to ladies. If we successfully achieve this goal, we will introduce more than 100 million women into the global labour force. It is an interesting projection; according to the World Economic Forum estimates, each 1% increase in the female labour force and participation will lead to an increase of 80 billion US dollars in the global GDP. So if you increase just 1% female labour force participation it will create 80 billion US dollars in the global GDP. If it’s 10% it is 800 billion dollars, almost total GDP of Turkey. We recognise the significance of this commitment and we’ll seek the support of international organisations led by the ILO and OECD in measuring of this progress and I am sure my dear friend Angel Gurria will follow up which countries are yet to fulfil this commitment and which are have even surpassed. But I can assure you, Turkey will be one of the first countries to achieve this goal.

So gender equality and access to equal opportunities for women can promote sustainable development and have positive distributional implications. Women’s access to education, employment and business opportunities will allow the reduction of poverty with in the family. Here I would like to make a reference to Syria. Today, not only women but men also cannot find jobs. But if one day Syria will be reconstructed, be sure that reconstruction will be done by men and women, by all Syrians together. Therefore we have to prepare them. I am also proud to say here, and I will give some statistic from Turkish experience, but before going there thousands of Syrian young girls, refugees, they are getting education from Turkish universities. Thousands of them are getting education in secondary schools. Thousands of them are getting preschool education in refugee camps. We are preparing them not for the future of Turkey, we are preparing them for the future of Syria. And Syria will be bright when this new generation will take over this mission in their country.

When we look at this commitment from Turkish perspective, what did we achieve in last 13-14 years I want to share these because it is a success story which should be known by international community as well.

For example, the rate of women’s participation in labour force increased from 23.3% in 2004 to the rate of 30.8% in 2014. It means increase of more than 7 points. A similar trend is observed for women employment rate, it increased from 20.8% in 2004 to 27.1% in 2014. Almost 7%. For the same period male labour participation increased by 1 point, while female participation rate grows by 2.5 points. These significant improvements signals hope for the future of our society. Women also act as economic agents and entrepreneurs. The organisers of this meeting KAGİDER, TİKAD, KADEM they are playing significant role in supporting women’s role in Turkish economy, politics and society. Especially as economic agents and entrepreneurs, successful women run micro SMEs, entrepreneurs and businesses. They play an important role in today’s business environment. As striking statistics show, from 2009 to 2014, when there was economic crisis in Europe in global economy, everywhere, women entrepreneurs have increased by 42% reaching to a number of 110,000 in Turkey. So when there is unemployment in other societies in Europe in Turkey women entrepreneurs increased 42%.  Therefore in fact we are overcoming the economic crisis, because there is a woman touch to this crisis and with your mercy our economy is performing better than the economies of other countries. The share of women entrepreneurs in Turkey was 4.9% in 2004 whereas it is almost 10% now. Of course these improvements are not coincidence. There is a well-structured dynamic public policy behind this success. Government’s task is to implement policies that encourage women to work and make it easier for them to work. Therefore government policy is critical for shaping the ecosystem that facilitates women’s economic participation.

This year I declared another very comprehensive reform to support women participation into labour force and especially to help them after  giving birth , maternal leave, etc. all encouragements and financial support for women who  need these in their daily life. But we didn’t come to this position in an easily, I remember. And here democracy and economic opportunities are important together. If there is no democracy, no freedom of education, freedom of labour, there cannot be women empowerment. Until recently in Turkey, especially 1990s, women wearing headscarf, they were not able to get education. Forget labour, including my wife, that generation had severe difficulties, oppressions and those girls who want to wear headscarves were not allowed to get education in universities, they were not allowed to be employee in public sector and they were discriminated negatively. Usually when we mention discrimination for women we always mean positive discrimination, like we put in our constitution as well, they were negatively discriminated. But fortunately now there is no discrimination between ladies who wear headscarves or ladies who the ones do not Everybody is free whatever they want to wear, they believe and whichever lifestyle they prefer to adopt. Nobody has the right to make pressure on any other one. I am also proud decades after having this oppression to have a minister in my cabinet wearing a headscarf freely and participating in the political life with their colleagues equally. Therefore democracy is the remedy for economic development and for women’s empowerment. If there is no democracy, there cannot be any real equality and freedom for women. If we review recent policies on women’s participation in Turkey, we see a wide variety of support in policies that range from paid maternal leave to child care subsidies. Even for a delivery of a baby we now give  a special gift to all mothers in Turkey around 300 Turkish liras, 400 Turkish liras, 600 Turkish liras to first, second and third child respectively This is not given to fathers, only to mothers. They deserve any support because we know the  pains they are experiencing during delivery while fathers are just waiting in front of the gate to get a good news. We have a variety of supportive policies like micro loan practices, child care and social support programmes and conditional health transfers and with this support, the share of women in economic life has increased. On the other hand, participation in the labour force alone will not be sufficient. Women in general  earn less than men. Recent reports by the International Labour Organisation reveal that a substantial gender wage difference between men and women still exist, and women in general earn approximately 77% of what men earn. In Turkey the gap is less than this but still that equality should be accomplished, not only job opportunities but also wage equality is important. If further progress in eliminating this gap is not taken, at current rate it will take over 70 years to achieve the pay equity. So we have to act today, we cannot wait 70 years for the equality.  This has to happen now. In most parts of the world, women are often concentrated in undervalued and low paid jobs with poor working conditions. They suffer from lack of access to education, training, recruitment and equal remuneration and have limited bargaining in decision making process. However, constituting 50.2% of the overall population women in fact are integral part of our societies and their absence in the socio-economic life or suppression will only undermine our future as the whole humanity.

Distinguished delegates,

Turkey has traditionally attached particular importance in increasing women’s participation in political, economic, social and cultural life and strengthening women’s status in society. Many people do not know, one of the first countries giving women the right to be elected was Turkey in Europe. With the amendment of the constitution as well as the law on elections in 1934, almost a century ago, Turkey is one of the pioneering countries in providing rights to women in political life. Currently there are 98 women parliamentarians in the Turkish parliament, approximately 18% of Turkish Grand National Assembly, which is not satisfactory for us. In another meeting I mentioned that should be at least 25% and I hope we will achieve this in upcoming elections. We want more woman participation in politics which symbolizes mercy in politics as well. Since 2000 Turkey has recorded significant improvements in education, health, employment and participation in decision making mechanisms. Regarding education there was a campaign initiated by President Erdoğan when he was the Prime Minister together with the first lady Emine Hanım at that time for girls to go to school, I think the title was “Girls, let’s go to school”. The net enrolment rate for girls in primary education which was 90% in 2000 today is 96.57% and we hope soon we will be reaching 100%. While the women illiteracy rate was 19.6% in 2000, the rate decreased to 6.4% in 2014 and our objective is to reduce this to less than 1%, as low as possible. When we come to support the rights of women, there was a really revolutionary change in health system in Turkey and women have benefited from this. Turkey has been among the 10 countries that experienced the highest decrease in the maternal mortality rates between 1990 and 2008. This is especially important because in many families we have these heart-breaking memories including myself who lost his mother, I lost my mother when I was four years old because she was not able to reach the hospital in the city from the mountainous village, our village, when she was pregnant. Therefore these statistics are important and there is a continuous improvement in this. Infant mortality rates have also significantly decreased. The amount of both prenatal and postnatal service beneficiaries have increased. As one of the best practices, regular cash assistance is provided to the economically most disadvantaged families on the condition that they bring their new-born to six year old children to regular health checks and health assistance is provided to pregnant women on the condition that they give their birth at hospitals and have regular health checks. So if a mother has regular health checks and births at hospitals they are being supported after verification. According to micro based simulation analysis women labour participation reduces poverty in Turkey.

It is estimated that 6% increase in woman labour participation in full time jobs reduces poverty by 15%. If the target of 20% women labour participation is achieved this will lead to 7% increase in household income. So the remedy for prosperity is going through the blessing hands of and merciful hearts of women. This is what we believe. We also put all effort to provide equal education and professional opportunities not only to our own citizens but also to every woman in the world. As we aspire to build a better future for humanity, we must make every effort to support women and close the inequality gap. Turkey promotes cooperation at regional levels and international levels aiming at the improvement of women’s rights all over the world and contributes to efforts in international platforms as I mentioned in 2010 in Council of Europe we initiated an international convention against the aggression against women. I am highly pleased to see influential Turkish NGOs today taking their rightful place in the helm of Women 20.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Lastly I want to emphasise on the agenda of G20 of this year. I have already mentioned we have 3 principles: Inclusiveness, Implementation and Investment. The aim is to have a strong, sustainable and balanced group. In addition to inclusiveness, which I have mentioned in detail, I want to emphasise two additional elements. One is SMEs, which is a bridge of different high level income companies and poor small companies. This bridge is important especially for women participation as well. In our SME studies, it is proven that SMEs are increasingly led by women and this is a good opportunity for women to participate in economic life.

Another important aspect of inclusiveness is regarding youth unemployment. Today the biggest problem for all of us is youth unemployment. You can see that all those countries having political turmoil, youth unemployment rate is high. If you want to have a prosperous, stable, political and economic life the only way to achieve this is to give more opportunities to young people. In Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Greece, Ukraine, and in many countries having political instabilities today, youth unemployment is the most striking indication. Therefore as Prime Minister, in all statistics I always look how the young unemployment rate is going. Therefore I call all G20 leaders to work together to decrease young unemployment, not only in their countries, in our countries, but globally if there is no global remedy for young unemployment be sure that those young people will be migrants or refugees to advanced economies to find jobs. Yesterday, some Ministers of G20 during lunch asked me a question how to prevent migration to Europe. Which is now the main agenda everywhere in Europe, I said “firstly, prevent political crisis in the neighbourhood, help people in neighbourhood so that they can stay at home rather than  coming to Europe, and the best way for international peace, the best way is through economic cooperation and interdependent economic relations. We are living in a global village. Nobody can feel safe in the capitols of advanced economies. With high income, if there is a huge gap between those economies and low income developing economies. New York alone can consume more electricity than some African countries. That gap, if it is not closed there cannot be a peace in the world. We should not be thinking just egocentric way, myself, my country, my company but we should say our country, our world, our company, our future, our destiny. Yesterday, I want to, I am sure ladies would understand this in a much more deep sophisticated manner, yesterday I mentioned to the Ministers, one of my anecdotes when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs in a Ministerial conference on environment in the UN, usually diplomats, -I apologise from the diplomats who are here- but they prepare very boring texts to Ministers to read just to defend national positions, and this is usual I mean I am not criticising. In that meeting, around 50 or 60 of foreign ministers talking on environment, every Minister read their national position, position of nation states, when it came to me I realised that the audience was bored and people are listening to the usual national positions, I didn’t read my text and I said “I want to give you an example and I will not read you my speech text of national position.” I said “In all other issues we can talk as Ministers of nation states but on environment when we speak we have to speak not as Foreign Ministers of nation states but interior ministers of humanity because on environment all we have the same destiny. Maybe one day there will not be one-world government, but if leaders of the leading economies, if leaders of the world do not think in an empathetic way understanding others and do not think and approach to issues as if they are representing all humanity, not just one nation state we cannot solve the problem. First we have to make a revolutionary change in our mentality. If there is no ontological existence, there cannot be political existence. If the survival of humanity is not guaranteed, the political survival is not possible. The problem is not only the political survival of states, the most important thing is survival of humanity as the most holy created being, and women have the leading part of this humanity and we want to see the mercy of women for the future of our common destiny.

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