In the words of İlkin Eskipehlivan: “I want to play my part in breaking gender stereotypes using my camera”
İlkin Eskipehlivan, 35, is an artist and storyteller from Istanbul, Türkiye. Having worked as a photojournalist covering current affairs in his country, Eskipehlivan noticed a change in his perspective after he started working for UN Women where he was assigned to document women’s lives and perspectives, including the experiences of refugee women, advocacy efforts by actor and UN Women Türkiye Goodwill Ambassador Demet Evgar, and the HeForShe campaign. Following this experience, he works harder to give higher visibility to women in all their diversity and to address gender stereotypes.
My name is İlkin. In Turkish language, it’s hard to tell whether I am a man or a woman because I have a gender-neutral name that my parents picked before I was born. They simply didn’t care about my biological sex. Does it matter now? Unfortunately, yes. Where does this take us? Not to a good place because gender discrimination and sexism still exist. However, this must change. I want to play my part in breaking gender stereotypes using with my camera.
Before working with UN Women, I considered myself as a man with a high gender awareness. But my real break point was when I directly started to interact with women and girls via UN Women. I realized that we look at the same subjects but see different things compared to women. For instance, a night walk is a relaxation ritual for me, with headphones in my ear, enjoying the rhythm of the music, while for women in many parts of the world, it can be a threat.
Before, I saw the barriers women face more at an individual level. Nevertheless, with every training I participated at UN Women I noticed that security, access to basic rights and services, health and education, economic independency, participation in work life or political life, are much easier if you are a man.
I learned that realities differ from one woman to another. That's why I use the power of multimedia and my artistic skills to make women more visible and tell their stories through unique ways so that they reach wide audiences. Since I started working for UN Women, I speak more loudly about women's issues, I try to show the world through women's eyes and reactions, and I work with more female voice actors in my films.
For example, when I attended the launch of UN Women’s #SheSaidNo campaign, during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence last year, I was touched by the powerful messages a young woman and UN Women Türkiye Goodwill Ambassador, actor Demet Evgar, delivered with an old school megaphone. I felt compelled to document these actions using photography.
Gender inequalities also put heavy pressure on men, but the disadvantages experienced by women have way deeper impacts on women and the society. As a man, I aim to walk with women hand-in-hand and encourage all men to do the same. And I know that all our efforts will pay off. Until then, I will continue to hold the camera towards the equal future we desire to have.”
Photos: UN Women/İlkin Eskipehlivan