Conference fuses links .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - This Saturday and Sunday in the bustling center of Istanbul, Koç University is organizing a conference on gender studies in Turkey: ’Inequalities, Struggles and Advances’. Conference organizers have invited 37 experts working on women’s issues to raise awareness about gender inequalities and form a closer network among them.

Koç University will merge concentric circles of experts in the fields of academia, civil society, justice and business during a conference on gender this weekend. It is free and open to the public.

In nine sessions, these women will discuss among other things violence against women and children, gender and law, participation in politics and the labor force, education and civil society activism. Simultaneous translation between Turkish and English will be available throughout the conference.

Conference chair Hülya Durudoğan put together a planning committee last March in the hopes of facilitating a conference that would address some of the issues least addressed in the area of gender equality. She said she and her fellow committee members - Fatoş Gökşen, Ebru Tan, Bertil Oder, Deniz Yükseker - were hopeful that the conference would help facilitate dialogue between academia and the NGOs to enhance cooperation from all sides. She said she and other leaders in higher education had a responsibility to help solve problems facing women in Turkey "any way we can." "I believe gender issues need to be made visible in "patriarchal" cultures such as Turkish society," Durudoğan told the Daily News.

Broad participation

bru Tan, committee member and Koç University corporate relations coordinator, said they were surprised by the level of interest and response. "It’s a tight program fitting so many important issues and respected panelists into one weekend," she said.

Tan will moderate the NGO panel in which the leaders of prominent organizations working on women’s issues will represent Kagider (supporting successful entrepreneurs), Flying Broom (advocating gender equality) and Kader (advocating political access and participation).

The 39 invited participants will include two prominent keynote speakers: Yakın Ertürk, who is the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and professor at Middle East Technical University and Çiğdem Kağıtçıbaşı, the founder of the Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) and professor at Koç University. The other conference co-sponsors are the consulate generals of the Netherlands and Sweden in Istanbul.

Preschool needed to close gap
Kağıtçıbaşı said she was not optimistic that any conference could influence the current government’s policy making. "But perhaps we can reach public opinion," she told the Daily News Thursday. Naming a number of issues she planned to discuss in her keynote address Saturday afternoon, she said she would share her view that free high quality religious education had been an instrument supplied from the top, not by demand. "The policies of the last 30 years have fully utilized and abused people’s religious faith to push a political and ideological agenda," she said.

Reaching nearly half a million mothers, fathers and children since 1993, Kağıtçıbaşı and AÇEV have been working to increase public awareness about the importance of early childhood education. Provisions for child care services among OECD countries show that Turkey has the lowest rates for care services of children under five. A main reason for this is that state school doesn’t begin for children until the age of seven, which hinders women’s public participation. To this end, İpek İlkkaracan, Chair of the Board of Directors of Women for Women's Human Rights, has urged the Turkish Ministry of Education to act on the regulation it passed in 2004 to provide state-supported preschool.

The session on political participation will include Zeynep Oya Usal (European Court of Human Rights) "Woman, Politics and the Quota: Comparative Cases from the EU and a Look at Turkey"; Serpil Sancar (Ankara University) "Why and How is Women’s Equal Participation in Politics Problematic?"; and Lenita Freidenvall (Stockholm University) "The Diffusion and Implementation of Gender Quotas in Europe".

9:30 a.m.-7:30 a.m. Saturday and

Sunday, November 29-30

Koç Üniversitesi Anadolu Medeniyetleri Enstitüsü

İstiklal Cad. Nur-i Ziya Sok. No.5 Beyoğlu

For complete program: Koc University - Conference on Gender Studies in Turkey