The President of KADEM Saliha Okur Gümrükçüoğlu’s Interview with Anadolu Agency

“It is essential for women to be in the political scene”

KADEM President Dr. Saliha Okur Gümrükçüoğlu stated that it is essential for women to take part in decision making mechanisms and the political scene in which policies directing the future of the country emerge.

Women and Democracy Association (KADEM) President Dr. Saliha Okur Gümrükçüoğlu emphasized that the central principles of balance, equity and justice must be in force in politics as well, saying: “It is indispensable for women to take part in the decision-making mechanisms and the political scene, where the policies influencing the future of the country are produced.”

Gümrükçüoğlu explained the activities and projects of the Association to the AA Correspondent, stating that there are 43 city representatives and 21 female student dormitories operating under the KADEM Foundation across the country.

Making a special mention of KADEM’s discourse on gender justice, Gümrükçüoğlu said:

“The point we want to underline with the concept of gender justice is to have a justice-oriented perspective encompassing equality, which interprets the innate differences between women and men as a richness that both sexes possess. At this point, KADEM is trying to produce solutions from the perspective of gender justice in order to address an array of grievances, such as threats against women and family unity, femicides, and psychological violence against women. On the other hand, I can say that the approach that deposits the weight of the family and its responsibilities only on the shoulders of women is an unfair approach that damages family unity.”

Gümrükçüoğlu mentioned the two major projects of the Association: “Women in Innovation” and “Job for the Future”. She also noted that the III. International Women and Justice Summit, which is one of the biggest events of KADEM and is organized every two years, will be held on 23-24 November, this year revolving around the theme of Family Empowerment.

“Approximately 4 Million Refugees”

Underlining the fact that there are approximately 4 million refugees living in Turkey, Gümrükçüoğlu stressed that KADEM has not been inddifirent to this refugee crisis. She stated that the Association has conducted many projects and organizations in order to draw attention to the problems of asylum seekers in both national and international channels.

Dr. Gümrükçüoğlu continued:

“Our Syrian brothers and sisters have been living in Turkey for 7 years. On the road to social cohesion and unity, both the government and NGOs have very important roles to play. That is what we are working for. KADEM is currently conducting the Refugee Women Adaptation Center Project with the cooperation of AFAD. In the first part of this project, a profile survey was conducted for the analysis of the economic and psycho-social adaptation of 5000 asylum-seekers in Istanbul and Ankara, as a result of which we have been able to create a database.

We provide psychological support, legal counseling, vocational training courses, Turkish and Arabic language training, and social activities in our Refuge Women Center. We are trying to channel the experience that we accumulated from projects we have conducted for asylum-seekers to new projects. In particular, we will focus on projects that strengthen dialogue and social cohesion between the two cultures.”

Gümrükçüoğlu stated that one of the issues KADEM wants particularly to work on is the work-family balance. Maintaing that women who feel stuck betweeen the two poles of this balance are in need of a little breath, Dr. Gümrükçüoğlu continued:

“There is no doubt that women need support in fulfilling their duties, so that the integrity of the family can be protected and their inner peace can be maintained. For the last 17 years, our state has enacted many laws that have facilitated the participation of women in business life. Maternity leave, breastfeeding leave, and early retirement rights for mothers are examples of regulations that ease women’s lives. In this regard original solutions were found, such as providing a grandmother’s salary for child care.

As KADEM, we are reaching thousands of women through our 43 city representative offices across Turkey and teaching them their own rights with the Social Rights Education and Legal Rights Education. We will continue to increase the number of trainings in the new period.

If we come to politics, we came across a pleasing picture in the general elections of 2018. Women in unprecedented numbers applied for nomination in parliament. Although we have seen an increase in the number of women deputies entering the Assembly, it did not reach the adequate number. In terms of representation, women unfortunately have not been able to have access to what is their right. As KADEM, we see that the central principles of balance, equity and justice must be in effect for political representation. That’s because politics is the arena in which policies affecting women’s lives are produced. Therefore, it is essential for women to take part in the decision-making mechanisms and in the political scene where the policies that guide the future of the country emerge. Women’s participation in politics is necessary for fair representation and balance. The duty of Women’s NGOs like us is to encourage women to find solutions ensuring the balance of family and work, and to assure the participation of women in active politics and in policy-making mechanisms.”

In response to our question “How do you balance your identities as a spouse, a mother of three children, an academic, and the President of KADEM?” Gümrükçüoğlu said:

“In Turkey, many women actually have more than one role, and I am one of those women. I am trying to fulfill my duty in academia and my presidential duty in KADEM. On the other hand, I take care to keep my family bonds intact. At this point, my family, and especially my husband, have always been with me as my supporters. Spouses need to respect each other’s priorities and contribute to them. When this responsibility of contribution is unilateral, it hinders the healthy conduct of the marriage alliance.

It is very important that both women and men should understand each other in terms of their roles, and, if necessary, mutually make up for each other’s shortcomings. This is indispensable for maintaining family unity. Like all mothers, I want to leave behind me a world for our children where cruelty and injustice are minimized, where jutice and mercy rule.”

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