The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) hosted a conference Friday on "Change in Muslim Societies and the Role of Women" at Istanbul's Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel.
The event was a platform for discussion on the following issues:
1. the commitment to improving women's status in Muslim societies
2. implementing gender-inclusive governance reforms for promoting gender equality in public policy
3. devising measurements to promote a more balanced representation of men and women in decision-making bodies
The event began with a speech from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who attended the conference with his wife, Emine.
Other notable guests in attendance at the event included the Secretary General of the OIC, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu as well as various dignitaries and politicians from other OIC member states.
Erdogan, 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 with tears when quoting Prophet Muhammad's famous words "paradise is at the feet of your mother", as an example of the importance that Ä°slam places on respecting women.
OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu 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.
Ihsanoglu 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.
In the same vein, Ihsanoglu stated that the establishment of the Department of Family Affairs in the OIC General Secretariat within the framework of implementation of the OIC Ten Year Program of Action was another step forward in the OIC's commitment to advancement of women in Muslim societies.
He also referred to the establishment of an OIC Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights (IPCHR) as a very significant development in the Organisation which constitutes a welcome sign for mainstream human rights, including rights of women. He explained the fact that four of the 18 Member Commission are women, bears testimony to the OIC's commitment to gender equality.
"I firmly believe that the four women members of the IPCHR will play a commendable role in strengthening the rights of women in Muslim society" Ihsanoglu added.
However, he emphasized that we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that such opportunities are still limited only to the privileged few. He stressed that a vast majority of Muslim women remain deprived of their basic rights and access to social opportunities compared their male equivalents.
Turkish Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Shahin commented that women do not want charity, kindness and support but to be granted equality and to fully enjoy their right to life. Shahin 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.
"Int'l conference calls for gender equality in Muslim societies" Today's Zaman December 23, 2011
"OIC - Ihsanoglu speaks to the Role of Women's Conference in Istanbul Arab Spring has been achieved because women stood side by side with men" ISRIA December 23, 2011
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today