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2500 Women Activists Travel to Istanbul for AWID Forum

Thu, Apr 19, 2012

Press

Today’s Zaman-Istanbul/ By Alyson Neel

The four-day international summit has attracted activists, journalists and scholars from across the globe to share their diverse experiences and together explore how to best move forward in channeling and reshaping economic power to advance women’s rights and justice.

Not only does economic power impact women all over the world in every dimension of their lives, said AWID Board President Lina Abou-Habib, but it also cuts across all women’s rights issues. The conference’s hefty agenda, with break-out sessions ranging from gender-based violence and reproductive rights to political participation and education, proves just that.

The summit kicked off as both a celebration of women activists’ work and a call to action to galvanize the international feminist movement.

“In the last 12 years we have taken a defensive approach in our political efforts. We’ve had to defend what we gained but we have not pushed forward. Now we need to rebuild the women’s movement and take the offensive,” AWID Executive Director Lydia Alpízar Durán pressed.

İpek İlkkaracan Ajas from İstanbul Technical University, another panelist in the plenary, zeroed in on challenges she and other academics and activists have confronted in Turkey. “Despite Turkey’s economic growth, this is a country alongside others where the integration of women in the labor force has not been seen. Turkey ranks high in per capita income but ranks 190th, or 10th from the bottom, in its gap between employment of women and men,” Ajas noted.

Ajas also discussed a specific economic obstacle facing millions of women around the world — the phenomenon of care labor, or the production of goods and services in the household. Not only is child labor almost exclusively shouldered by women, but it is also largely unrecognized by governments and economic markets, Ajas asserted.

“We need an equal sharing of household duties between men and women. This is an important component of gender equality, but it is also an area in which we are not moving forward,” she said.

Mahnaz Afkhami, a former women’s affairs minister of Iran, led a break-out session Thursday for women’s rights activists from the Middle East and North Africa to share their strides and challenges in advancing women’s rights in the midst of the democratic uprisings that have swept the region. Afkhami, a lifetime advocate for the rights of women and founder and president of the Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), works with women’s rights activists around the world, especially in Muslim majority societies.

But the hindrances Muslim women face are not so different than those of women across the globe, Afkhami told Today’s Zaman in an exclusive interview. “The struggles women face generally come from social structures on which society has been based – patriarchal, hierarchal and authoritarian structures, for example. And for the most part, these institutions exclude women from making decisions that affect their own lives.”

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About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Quotables – Human Rights

"We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?" - A Vision of Gender in Culture

"Women's status in society has become the standard by which humanity's progress toward civility and peace can be measured." - Architects for Peace

"The crass infringement of women's rights we see in the Muslim world has more to do with power, patriarchy, and misuse of religion as political weapon than with religion properly understood as individual faith." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

"Rights and empowerment are interconnected: unless a substantial number of women in a community come to believe that they have rights and demand to exercise them, right remains an abstraction." - Faith and Freedom

Quotables – Movement Building

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