We have delivered gender equality training to more than 1300 working women and men under the project “More and Better Jobs for Women: Women’s Empowerment through Decent Jobs in Turkey” implemented by ILO Office in Turkey.
In the period December 2016-February 2017 seminars were conducted in project provinces Ankara, Bursa, İstanbul and Konya in cooperation with private sector, municipalities and trade unions. Doing this, we reached employees, both women and men, working for our partner organizations, yielding enhanced awareness in gender equality and support to gender sensitive working environments.
‘Our project is a step on the way leading to gender awareness’
Implemented in cooperation with the Employment Agency of Turkey (İŞKUR) with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) as the funding agency, our “More and Better Jobs for Women” project is in fact one of the steps we take to support women in overcoming obstacles they face both in entering working life and afterwards, also aiming to support the employment of women and policies pursued to create decent jobs for women in Turkey.
Though legislation defines men and women as equal individuals, there are unfortunately cases where legislation is not implemented effectively in both working life and private domain, and as in many other parts of the world women remain out of labour force because of patriarchal stereotypes or lack of access to quality child/sick/elderly/disabled care services. As for women in employment, there are others problems such as informal, low paid and unsafe jobs, and violence and discrimination at workplaces.
“Workplaces are now much more sensitive about gender equality”
Given that women’s awareness in their rights is crucial in overcoming these problems and that gender equality can be attained only through joint efforts of both women and men, we envisaged these seminars for both sexes.
We think creating more and better jobs for women is possible only through questioning and transforming gender stereotypes in working life, and adopting gender equality.
Under the project we are carrying out with slogans “We are equal at work, at home and everywhere” and “We are equal-together”, we conducted these “I Support Equality” seminars with employees from Çankaya and Kadıköy Municipalities, Dünya Ophthalmology Hospital, Alarko Holding, H&M, Seger Sound and Electrical Devices Company, Hak-İş Confederation and DİSK. We had the chance of reaching employees from many different sectors such as services, energy, health and textiles without any distinction between blue and white collar workers.
Conducted by Women’s Human Rights-New Solutions Association (KİH-YÇ) seminars in the form of two hours of interactive training sessions covered the following topics: concept of gender; gender roles; consequences of gender inequality in working life, economy and social life; gender equality at work places, and best practices in the field from Turkey and other countries.
When we established contacts with institutions for cooperation in conducting seminars we noticed that they are interested in and assign much more importance to this kind of training activities than in the past. They encourage their employees to attend such trainings and hence are open to cooperation. In fact there were many asking for new trainings in the field.
‘Employees want equality as corporate policy’
Enterprises and institutions realize that individual contributions to the creation of more equalitarian and thus productive environments will increase together with higher awareness in equality on the part of employees. They also see that sensitivity in gender equality at workplaces will both safeguard the rights of employees and strengthen the organization itself by providing fairer, safer and more productive working environments through gender equality policies and practices.
As for employees, they too develop some different sensitivities and expectations than usual. For instance, after seminars they say equality should be a part of corporate policies.
“Male participants question themselves”
Another observation of ours is that male participants were deeply interested and very active. The number of participants tells it: There were over 750 male and 500 female participants. Participating males become aware of and start questioning issues related to gender roles that they have never thought of before.
After seminars, for example, some male participants said they noticed how they used to violate the rights of their children while bringing them up in matters such as disregarding their rights to dress up in their own choice and play with toys they like. They say it was the outcome of such stereotypes as ‘girls dress in pink and boys in blue…‘
They ask, for example, “Why infant and child care d-rooms are designed only for mothers-children?” Or a father going to a shopping mall with his young daughter criticizes the absence of toilets and care room that he can accompany his daughter to. “I had to ask a woman whom I never met before to accompany my daughter in toilet. This I think is the result of that stereotype thinking that child care is exclusively for women.”
‘Question marks on social roles emerge in the minds of women and men’
They become aware of different forms of gender discrimination repeating itself over and over in both working life and at home and speak out their reaction to this. They say it should be changed and stress the importance of imparting the notion of human rights and equality during early childhood when gender roles evolve and are learned.
One participating woman underlines, for example, that women should evaluate men not on the basis of some material criteria but on the basis of respect to equality and rights.
Women and men likewise become more aware of each other. For instance, women learn in these seminars by what men tell about what a heavy pressure that traditional ‘men don’t cry’ exerts upon them.
Or women come to notice that the reason for not getting promotion in their jobs, which they tend to attribute to their own inadequacies, in fact derives from gender inequality.
In the same vein, they state they have never thought about gender equality as the main driver of violence against women.
So these examples and signs of awareness confirm the validity of the course we are following and show how these seminars are important in widening perspectives and breaking prejudices.
Participants are awarded their certificates at the end of seminars. But they are once more aware that no certificate can be as valuable as what they have learned and become aware of…