Summit 2015 Summary
Women from all over the world gathered in Istanbul on May 9-10, to discuss humanitarian action from a gender sensitive perspective.
More than 300 hundred participants, primarily women, from 50 different countries, partook in the 2015 Istanbul Summit to discuss problems the world’s women in relation to humanitarian and to work towards sustainable and innovative solutions. The Istanbul Summit, organized for the first time in 2014, was this year held at the Gorrion Hotel, under the title ‘Women as the Beneficiaries and Actors of Humanitarian Action’, and in support of the UN HeForShe campaign. Participants from civil society organizations, female parliamentarians, leaders, academics, activists and journalists came together at the Summit, organized by the Women’s Platform of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) in collaboration with the humanitarian aid organization Kimse Yok Mu (KYM) and African Union. The Summit opened with speeches by the Vice President of JWF, Hüseyin Hurmali, the Vice President of KYM, Ayşe Özkalay, and the former ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Meryl Frank. From there a cavalcade of inspiring panels and passionate oral statements followed.
The first panel, titled ‘The Efficiency of Humanitarian Aid’, was moderated by journalist and anchorwoman Suna Vidinli. Millicent Otieno, founder and CEO of Local Capacities for Peace International, Nairobi, talked about the idea of ‘Do no harm’ and stressed that humanitarian aid is not about ticking of boxes on a checklist, but about human lives. The second speaker, E. Oya Özarslan, Chair of Transparency International, Turkey, spoke about cost-effectiveness and anti-corruption strategies in fundraising. The panel ended with a video message from Atefeh Riazi, CITO/ASG, Office of Information and Communication Technology, emphasizing the importance of technology in humanitarian aid and in empowerment of women.
The second panel on ‘Women and Humanitarian Aid’ was opened by moderator Maria Eugenia Crespo, Director of Global Cooperation Circle Support, United Religions Initiative, Argentina. The first speaker, Siobhán Foran from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Switzerland, spoke about gender-based violence. Next, Brenda Halloran, the CEO of the Waterloo Innovation Network and the former mayor of Waterloo, Canada, stressed the challenges in relation to women’s health, which is still marked by gender-based disparities in many countries. From there, Tomoko Ohji, editor of the Mainichi Newspapers in Japan, took the audience to the war zone of Gaza, and emphasized that doing in-depth reporting from war-ridden contexts requires that the journalists adapts, also, the perspective of the women suffering from the conflict.
The third panel was on ‘Women Refugees and Internally Displaced Women’, and moderated by Assistant Professor in Sociology, Semiha Topal, from Fatih University, Turkey. She gave the first word to Natalia Marcela Molina, First Instance Judge of Penal and a Member of the Directive Commission of Women Judges of Argentina, who enlightened the audience on the issue of law as an instrument of reducing vulnerability of women refugees and IDPs and building long term resilience. Dr. Zakia Belhachmi, Strategic International Education & Gender Specialist, from Canada, then talked about the empowerment of women refugees and building long-term resilience. She emphasized that resilience policies ought to focus on the everyday life realities of humans, rather than hard science and statistics. In a similar vein, Dr. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi, India, concentrated on the prevention of abuse of women refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Last, but not least, Bukky Shonibare, Founder of Adopt-A-Camp, Nigeria, delivered a powerful speech on women refugees as leaders of humanitarian action, in which she encouraged the audience to ponder upon their individual role in alleviating the suffering of refugee women in their communities.
The fourth and last panel of the day centred on the “The Plight of Women in Humanitarian Action” and was moderated by Cemal Usak, the Vice President of JWF, Turkey. He introduced the first speaker, Reem Doukmak, Ph.D. student at the University of Warwick, but originally from Syria, who spoke about the difficulties of her fellow countrymen living as refugees in Turkey. The next speaker, Hadia Hussien Hamad, journalist from the Kurdistan Regional Government and Yazidi woman herself, informed the audience about the atrocities conducted by ISIS against the Yazidi population on the Iraqi-Turkish border. The session, and with it the program of the first day of the summit, ended with the speech of Yusra Moez, an Austrian-Afghan activist, speaking about her success story as a humanitarian actor despite being a refugee woman herself. She said, “Refugees are people with dignity. We still have the courage and we will keep our struggle to make a change in the world.”
The second day took a more interactive approach. In the morning participants were offered a line-up of workshops on five topics, including gender sensitive emergency response, empowerment of women refugees and long-term resilience, preventing abuse of women refugees and IDPs, role of CSOs and responsibilities of state authorities, and do no harm. Here participants were invited to share their own concerns and commitments in a dynamic and engaged environment, and encouraged to produce a final list of observations or recommendations. Meanwhile a parliamentarian roundtable discussion was conducted on ‘Gender-sensitive humanitarian action’, moderated by İştar Gözaydın, Professor of Law and Politics, from Turkey.
The afternoon sessions opened with a special panel by different female parliamentarians, on the same topic of the roundtable parliamentarian session, to openly share their views with the audience. Moderated by Dr. Cengiz Aktar, from Süleyman Şah University, Turkey and former UNHCR director, the session included speeches from Victoria Morales Gorleri, Deputy, Legislature of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, President of the Committee on Education, Science and Technology; Della Sowah, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection from Ghana; Cristina Reyes Hidalgo, Member of Parliament, Ecuador; and Evar Ibrahim, President of Women Commission, Parliament of Kurdistan Regional Government.
The summit was concluded with the presentation of the final declaration, the parliamentarians’ call for action and the outcome of the working groups. Afterwards the participants were treated to a cruise into the sunset on the Bosphorus waters accompanied by a wonderful dinner.