Friday marked a welcome discussion on the rights of women in Muslim societies with a conference called “Change in Muslim Societies and the Role of Women,” hosted by the international Organization of İslamic Cooperation (OİC) at İstanbul's Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel.
A platform for discussion on the commitment to improving women's status in Muslim societies, implementing gender-inclusive governance reforms for promoting gender equality in public policy and devising measurements to promote a more balanced representation of men and women in decision-making bodies, the event got underway with a speech from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who attended the conference with his wife, Emine.
Other notable guests in attendance at the event included the Secretary General of the OIC Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu, the Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, the Turkish Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Şahin as well as various dignitaries and politicians from other OIC member states.
Erdoğan, who commenced his address with a greeting in Arabic, spoke at length about the struggle of women in various Muslim countries, emphasizing the importance of respecting the rights of women and adopting a zero tolerance policy towards violence against women. Having lost his own mother last month, the prime minister welled up when quoting Prophet Muhammad’s famous words “paradise is at the feet of your mother,” as an example of the importance that İslam places on respecting women.
OIC Secretary General Ihsanoğlu remarked in his speech on the positive role played by Muslim women in bringing about change in the Arab uprising. “What has been achieved in those countries was possible because women stood side by side with their male partners,” he said. Ihsanoğlu also stressed that only through women’s increased participation in political, social and other spheres will society will find its way towards meaningful progress and development. He commented that despite the fact that there have been positive developments in the treatment of women in the past decade, there is still a long way to go.
Minister Şahin commented that women do not want charity, kindness and support but to be granted equality and to fully enjoy their right to life. Şahin underlined the importance of education as a powerful tool in the emancipation of women and said that by the year 2023 she hoped for a more democratic and free Turkey. “This is something we not only want for Turkey but for all our neighboring countries, people of all beliefs and Muslim women all over the world,” she added.