An open call from the International Day of the Girl Child Conference in Türkiye: Let's work with girls and women to build their own futures!


Representatives from UN Women, UNICEF, UNFPA and Aydın Doğan Foundation, together with speakers on the main stage of the International Day of the Girl Child Conference in Türkiye. Photo: Courtesy of Aydın Doğan Foundation.
Representatives from UN Women, UNICEF, UNFPA and Aydın Doğan Foundation, together with speakers on the main stage of the International Day of the Girl Child Conference in Türkiye. Photo: Courtesy of Aydın Doğan Foundation.

Held on 11 October 2022, the International Day of the Girl Child Conference put a spotlight on why it is important to invest in girls' empowerment and prioritize their health and rights – underlining that overall well-being is a foundation of advanced societies.  Since 2015, UN Women, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Türkiye and the Aydın Doğan Foundation have worked together to host this important event.

During the conference, Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Aydın Doğan Foundation said: “130 million girls are out of school today. Gender inequality was a widespread injustice before COVID-19 but for girls specifically, this has grown dramatically after the pandemic. Girls in every corner of the world are defending their rights and calling for support. We must give an ear to their voices because if we do not act now, we will pay the price together for every day we fail to achieve gender equality.”

“On this International Day of the Girl Child, we envisage a world where the agency and leadership of girls is recognized, one that they enjoy, and where they can exercise their rights, free from violence and discrimination, as members of their societies and communities,” said UN Women Türkiye Country Director, Asya Varbanova. “This is not an unattainable goal, but something we can accomplish if we act boldly, and encourage and facilitate the leadership and active engagement of young women in decision-making, so that the shape of the present and the future is informed by their views and knowledge,” she added.

Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Türkiye Representative stated that: “The 600 million adolescent girls living in our world today are ready to become the largest generation of women leaders ever seen in history. This is possible with one condition only: We should equip them with the right opportunities and skills. On this ‘Day of the Girl’ we invite governments, stakeholders, communities, and parents to believe in adolescent girls and remove the barriers in front of them, to allow them to flourish and contribute to their communities.”

"Bodily autonomy is the key to support girls to change the world. It’s about power and agency. It’s about choice and dignity. Bodily autonomy is the foundation for gender equality, and above all else, it’s simply a fundamental right. When women and girls have the information, the services, and the means to make decisions about their own bodies and lives – free from violence, discrimination, or coercion – they can chart their own destiny and realize their full potential,” said UNFPA Türkiye Representative Hassan Mohtashami.

At the conference, participants presented best practices of girls and women in their societies overcoming gender barriers and driving change. İlayda Eskitaşçıoğlu was among them. She is a human rights lawyer working on gender equality, sustainable development, reproductive rights, and child labour. “We need to invest in girls and prepare them for the future without expecting them to just become mothers and raise children one day. When we enable them to make their own decisions and chart their own paths, we will be on the right track,” she said.

A segment of the conference saw leading sports women take to the stage and share their inspirational experiences and insights. These included Yasemin Adar, two-time European Champion in freestyle wrestling, Jessica Lynne O'Rourke Çarmıklı, Manager of Fenerbahçe Women's Football team and Aysu Türkoğlu, the youngest Turkish swimmer to cross the English Channel. This engaging session was moderated by the famous actor and writer Yekta Kopan.

The event closed with an intervention by singer Hadise, UNICEF Türkiye’s Child Rights Advocate. Pointing out that gender inequality leaves not just girls behind but all members of society, Hadise said, “Let's not allow inequalities to win over. Together, we can break gender stereotypes and support girls to grow and shine and become the individuals that they want to be in life.”

Visit the link to watch the video of the conference.