The Sun is Rising For Women
Selin Ozunaldim | Istanbul, Turkey
We have always been told that it is hard to live in this world as a woman but do you understand what it takes to be one? For years, society convinced young girls that feminism is not necessary. With girls being told feminism is not needed, it opens up possibilities for old, sexist traditions to continue. On the surface, we know that one of the biggest issues facing girls is the lack of equal education opportunities but in fact, the issue is much deeper. Imagine a girl, Ayşe, who grew up in a patriarchal Turkish family, who had to fight against the hardships of this biased world. Ayşe works hard and claws her way to university. The common perception is, if girls can get into a good college, their lives will be saved. However, ‘happily ever after college’ is just a myth that Ayşe will face. According to recent data, there are 8 million college students in Turkey, of which 3 million are women, which ranks Turkey the highest in Europe in terms of female students. Despite this fact, according to OECD, Turkey has the lowest rate of female labor force participation. We can link the reasons for this issue to culture. For example, in Turkey’s eastern provinces, women are not allowed to work after marriage regardless of their education level. The common culture in Turkey is that women are involved in the productive and reproductive process, and they are also thought of to be in life-long housework and childcare from biological reproduction roles, while men are called ‘the pillar of the house’. Looking back to Ayşe’s life - after graduation, she will start to face challenges women face daily, because of their gender. Here women have to listen to people trying to bring down their self-esteem by saying phrases like ‘female brain’. These sexist words are just falsification and are used to make women feel uninvited, and made to feel like nothing more than wives and ways to produce children. Some questions Ayşe hears frequently at job interviews are ‘Are you married?’, ‘Do you plan to have kids?’. Questions that their male colleagues never even heard of. In today’s business world in Turkey, it is more important for recruiters if a female employee will have to leave early for home or not when her child gets sick, rather than her job qualifications and skills. Competing to get a job when men are not only being hired more but are also being paid more is discouraging and fuels the feeling of uninterest in the fight for equality. Ayşe’s dream of getting a degree and earning enough money to support herself and her siblings’ education came to a sudden end. When she faced the facts of how Ayşe didn’t have the money to pay for her rent, she couldn’t even think about putting any money for her sibling’ education. She was struggling to survive in this male-dominant system. Was this the ending she deserved after long struggles of getting a university education? While her male friend, who graduated in the same period, focuses only on his career, everything from clothing to her makeup can be made a problem by her bosses wherever Ayşe works. She has to deal with psychological, verbal and even physical harassment on a larger scale than her male peers. Ayşe struggles to understand why she and many other women like her have such challenges in today's world of the 21st century. Women have proved their existence, their brains and their intelligence at the forefront. Women for decades have had to fight, and though this fight for our rights might seem daunting, we can look at women who have made their own in this world. It is important in this time to look at women of power and thank them for what they’ve done, but also use them as an example for ourselves to stand up and try. Just look at Aylin Uysal who is the Senior Design Director at Oracle (pictured above on the left) or Ayşegül İldeniz who is the Vice President of New Technologies and Strategies at Intel (pictured above on the right). "Everything we see in the world is the creative work of women." said Turkey’s great leader Atatürk. Isn’t it sorrowful that women are left on the background in a country that has a leader, Atatürk, who gave civil rights to Turkish women in 1934, even before many European countries? No one ever said that being a woman is easy, but it is easier to make a change if we come together. If you empower the women, you will develop the nation! Note from the Editors: In our global fight for gender equality, we see that although women's experiences are unique, there are also universal inequalities that we still have to fight back against globally. The challenges Selin describes in this article can and do apply to places around the world, and we know that our readers will recognize these issues in their own communities too. This gives us all the more reason to work together to achieve gender equality globally, as this is a universal issue that impacts us all.