Taking to the global stage to address gender equality: three civil society actors from Türkiye share their impressions
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment, is a prominent forum where leaders come together to discuss and make decisions on the gender equality agenda. CSW also serves as a platform for advocacy and activism, bringing together women’s rights activists and civil society actors from around the world and providing a space to discuss linkages between various agendas. The priority theme for this year’s CSW was the ongoing discrimination faced by women in the digital world.
Several activists from Türkiye were in New York for the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which took place from 6 to 17 March 2023. UN Women Türkiye supported the attendance of three civil society organization (CSO) representatives from Türkiye. Hilal Esmer, from The Association for the Struggle Against Sexual Violence; Aslıhan Tekin, the European Union (EU) Representative of the European Women’s Lobby Coordination for Türkiye; and Elçin Cavlan, from the Federation of Women’s Associations of Türkiye.
“Participating in CSW67 was a milestone for me as an activist working in the civil society sector for over 22 years. It was very exciting to participate in dialogue events and inspiring to see civil society organizations working closely with their government delegations,” says Esmer. “I attended sessions on technology-facilitated gender-based violence, protecting the rights of migrant women and girls, and the feminist digital future. Through these informative sessions, I gained a new perspective on the significance of technology and digital platforms and programmes on ending gender-based violence.”
Esmer says the Association prepared a fact sheet about the digital divide and online gender-based violence, explaining the current situation and needs after the earthquake in Türkiye. She personally handed the document to Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women and Lopa Banerjee, Director of UN Women’s Civil Society Division, and had separate meetings with both of them.
As a board member and EU Representative of the European Women’s Lobby Coordination for Türkiye, a nationwide women’s platform and national coordination affiliated with the European Women’s Lobby, Tekin says she found the sessions on 7 March inspiring at all levels.
“From the first session to the last one, the participants emphasized the importance of civil society in bridging the gaps between policies and how women rise above all circumstances,” says Tekin.
“Online gender-based violence should be recognized in policies and legislations to create a safe digital space for all,” she continues, emphasizing that women human rights defenders and activists face significant restrictions and limitations in the digital space.
Sharing a heartwarming memory from the last session on the 7 March, Tekin says: “While the first female Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United Nations, Maritza Chan Valverde, was speaking about the gender pay gap, the lights went off. Without wasting a second, she continued with her remarks. It was a symbolic moment marking the end of the day for me. As women, we become each other’s light with our words, actions and concrete commitment. Let’s be a beacon of light and surround each other with the warmth of solidarity.”
Cavlan, from the Federation of Women’s Associations of Türkiye, who has been attending CSW since 2015, says CSW continues to be a powerful global event: “I believe that CSW is a significant platform for activists and feminists to engage, network and discuss the persistent issues that affect women and girls. It is also crucial to maintain this network beyond CSW and collectively address the issues concerning gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
The participation of the three Turkish CSO activists was supported by UN Women Türkiye through the “Strong Civic Space for Gender Equality” project funded by the European Union.