The sixth of the October 11th International Day of the Girl Child Conference with the theme "Being a Girl in a Changing World”, was broadcast live from the studio set up in the Doğan Holding building in collaboration with the Aydın Doğan Foundation and United Nations organizations UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women.
Turkish scientist Betül Kacar, who works as a NASA astrobiologist at the University of Arizona, who participated in the panel titled "How is the global epidemic and climate change affecting girls?" said “Protecting girls who have fewer resources than boys will not continue as 'normal' in the coming days. For this, we should work with experts in the field of education and create opportunities for girls and provide them a childhood where they are respected”. “Search for knowledge, obtain it or create it,” she said to the young girls.
Aiming to draw attention to the obstacles girls of Turkey face in reaching their full potential, the sixth of the October 11th International Day of the Girl Child Conference with the theme "Being a Girl in a Changing World” was held. At the conference, moderated by UNFPA Turkey Ambassador, famous actress Hazal Kaya; the keynote speaker was the young climate activist Luisa Neubauer noted for her actions on the topic of climate change and her bold sayings in recent times. Luisa, who was connected to the conference live from Germany, was born in a prosperous country and as a lucky girl, and when she was young, her family elders told her that if she always worked, learned enough, fulfilled her duties, she could have anything she wanted, but that no one spoke to her about the climate crisis.
“Seeing our future taken away from us made me angry”
Luisa Neubauer said; “Learning something about climate change has completely changed my perspective. It also allowed me to reveal a lie that I lived through. What opportunities we would have in the future was a big lie. It's not just a matter of being right or wrong in the context of the climate crisis, but there is a huge gap and distinction in the context of genders. This is an inequality faced by girls around the world, and it stands as an obstacle to living in a free world as a young woman. While I had a family saying 'You can be anything' on the one hand, and the other hand, seeing our future taken away from us made me angry. While on one side, girls are applauded for their speeches, activities, organizing against the climate, or defending their rights, on the other, it is disrespectful that everything continues as before... It's not enough just to say good things or share some beautiful photos! Respecting what girls have accomplished should mean standing up and taking action. Only action will save us. Beyond just asking what the role of girls on International Day of the Girl Child should be, I want to ask what the role of everyone should be. If you really want to respect what girls do, get together, organize and do whatever you can, so that the future of these girls is lucky and truly safe.”
Vuslat Doğan Sabancı: "We should not stop running fast despite the pandemic…"
In his speech at the conference, Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, Deputy Chairperson of the Aydın Doğan Foundation Board of Directors, reminded that violence and sexual abuse against women and girls have increased during the pandemic and that women and girls working in jobs such as housework and in-home care that earn less and work in insecure jobs are feeling the current crisis more than others. Emphasizing that the common goal of the Aydın Doğan Foundation and its stakeholders is a world without discrimination, exclusion, and violence against girls, Sabancı said, “Although there are obstacles in our way towards this goal due to the pandemic, let's not forget that this is a marathon and never stop running fast. Education, especially the education of young girls, has been one of the primary focus areas that the Aydın Doğan Foundation has taken on as a mission since its establishment.
We believe that by contributing to the strengthening of education we are helping strengthen Turkey's economy and our young girls to participate as productive members of society. We never stop supporting our young girls not just during their education, but afterward as they step into real life; we provide financial and moral support, and we will continue to do so. We, as Doğan Family and Doğan Group, see our contributions in the field of education as an expression of our debt of gratitude to this land.”
UNICEF: "Girls should have an equal say in decisions that affect their future…"
UNICEF Turkey Deputy Representative Nona Zicherman said: "While discussing climate change and the negative impact of Covid-19 on girls; we should keep in mind that they can play an important role in overcoming these challenges and they already are in this role. We should include them in the solution processes for the problems we encounter and ensure that they become a part of the issue. We must make sure that girls have an equal say in decisions that directly affect their lives, health, the environment they live in, and their future. "
UN Women: "We need to take bold steps if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals"
UN Women Country Director for Turkey Asia Varbanova said "As long as we do not use the ideas, talents, and energy of young people, especially young women, and girls; we will be unable to deal with today's problems and unable to reach Sustainable Development Goals. If we want to achieve these by 2030, we need to accelerate progress and take big and bold steps."
UNFPA: "Public, private sector, non-governmental organizations, celebrities and society should join hands for girls ..."
UNFPA Deputy Representative Zeynep Başarankut Kan emphasized that gender inequality deepened as poverty and violence increased during the epidemic and crisis periods and that women and girls were affected the most by this. Underlining that according to UNFPA projections, home closure and economic shrinkage due to the pandemic may cause 13 million more child marriages in the next 10 years, Başarankut said that a 6-month quarantine may result in 41 million additional cases of violence due to the epidemic. “It is very important to be aware of the sometimes invisible risks that girls face, especially in times of crisis, and to carry out special precautions and accessibility works accordingly. The public, private sector, non-governmental organizations, celebrities, and society must join hands in this struggle. We should not leave anyone behind” she said.
Role model women and experts reach out to young people
As a part of the conference, a panel "How is the global epidemic and climate change affecting girls?" was held, moderated by journalist Melis Alphan. Turkish scientist Betül Kacar, who works as a NASA astrobiologist at the University of Arizona, who participated in the panel titled "How is the global epidemic and climate change affecting girls?" said “Protecting girls who have fewer resources than boys will not continue as 'normal' in the coming days. For this, we should work with experts in the field of education and create opportunities for girls and provide them a childhood where they are respected”. “Search for knowledge, obtain it or create it,” she said to the young girls.
Social pediatrician Prof. Dr. Betül Ulukol said that gender perception makes girls more vulnerable in the face of crises, and added, “However, apart from this vulnerability, girls have such great powers that they can turn into entities that can re-establish the order of this world with a little interest and compassion. Childhood has its potential; and as adults, we must use this potential. We must present these children with the inspiration sources, and create the presence of someone who can truly become role models for them.”
Annie Griffiths, a photographer known for her work at National Geographic and working for the empowerment of girls and women in developing countries, joined the conference and said: “Investing in girls is the best investment we can make for the future. They are changing the world, so we must ensure that they are educated and give them the best opportunities. Educated girls have a much better life, get married later in life, and their families are more successful. It is important for women to achieve economic independence. Educated girls raise a country and the world. So, I want to say something to all young girls: Fight for your right to education, get angry, and tell those who stand in your way that it's a good thing. Don't stop learning, keep reading. Use your creative potential… Find at least one person who believes in you and of course be each other's best friend as women!”
Sociologist Dr. Amber Fletcher, who works on how gender and social injustice in Canada affects climate change, stated that disasters also have gender; “Boys and girls, whose lives are structured differently, are affected differently by the climate crisis. Even in Canada, the women I spoke to talked about the difficulties of raising children in times of drought. These are not inevitable, young women want justice, they hold their governments accountable because barriers must be broken every day."
Young people talk about the World they dream of
Şeyma Nur Sağınç, Muhammet Rüştü Aktaş, Selin Gören and Dağlar Çilingir attended the panel titled "The world we dream of - Young people discuss how they want to change the world" moderated by Gözde Atasoy Kökçü. Young people from different parts of the world made their voices heard through video messages. Şeyma Nur Sağınç, who is set to receive an outstanding achievement scholarship from the Aydın Doğan Foundation and takes an active role in civil society projects carried out to combat global climate change today, participated in the panel. She said, “I wanted to change the course and set an example for other girls,” and Şeyma gave information about the Butterfly Effect and 2 Degree projects she carried out with her friends under the guidance of the Aydın Doğan Foundation. Şeyma described the future she wanted to live in as follows: “I want to live in a healthy and balanced environment. In a colorful, equal, sustainable environment ... "
Muhammet Rüştü Aktaş, who continues to work in the field of children's rights and child participation as the Project Coordinator at the Children's Rights Volunteers Association, called out to young people "Think free, feel free" and emphasized the importance of creating an environment where children can express themselves more comfortably and where they are respected by adults.
Yale University students and Selin Gören who serves as an activist in the climate movement of Fridays for Future Turkey, by giving examples from a dystopian scenario, "We are aware of and understand the crisis as young people, we should actively intervene in this scenario for our future. There are thousands of young people in the world and Turkey, aware of the situation. As Fridays for Future, we organized 6 global actions. However, the struggle of young people is not enough, we need people from all professions to use their talents and experiences to solve this crisis.”
Young people and children announced their requests by publishing an official statement.
111 children and young people working on the effects of ’Global Epidemics’ and ’Climate Change Crisis’ on girls and women published a statement in which they wrote their thoughts, criticisms, and suggestions. In the declaration, it was emphasized that society needs more awareness in order to strengthen the fight against climate change, and it was requested that the subject be included in the compulsory education curriculum. The statement noted that all institutions and organizations are expected to work more effectively in order to ensure climate justice, continues as follows: “We want the education we receive to be accessible to everyone, equal and based on up-to-date scientific knowledge and information. We believe that families should be informed, and support should be provided to families so that girls who are not sent to school, child workers, and all children and young people who have difficulties in their education during the epidemic; do not end up staying away from education. All children and adolescents, whether refugees or not, with or without disabilities, forced to work at a child age, married at a child age, both boys and girls should be heard and their needs should be listened to. Only in this way can a fairer, more equal, and more sustainable life be achieved.”