G(irls) 20 summit hopes to generate ideas for change
TORONTO - She's a delegate from Turkey, poised, educated and attending an international summit in Toronto, but what this 18-year-old has to say may rival the words of the G20 bigwigs.
"Even though I hope with all my heart that the real G20 will also seek to have real solutions, I still think maybe us 20 girls, making changes in our own communities, will also make a similar impact," said Irem Tumer, shrugging as she spoke plaintively.
The mostly male world leaders will descend on Toronto for the G20 summit next week. But Tumer and 20 other young women from around the world have been tossing around their own ideas, discussing global policy and offering a voice for 3.3 billion women worldwide.
Tumer and the others -- one representing the African Union and 20 mirroring the role of G20 delegates -- began Day 1 of the G(irls) 20 summit in Toronto on Wednesday.
Turkish women still encounter barriers to economic success because of their gender, Turner said of her country.
"I believe the perception of the society as a whole is the biggest challenge that women in Turkey face," she said in an interview during a break in the summit.
Tumer comes from a well-educated family, was brought up in a comfortable home and has attended good schools. Still, she said confronting discrimination is an ongoing, global problem for women.
"Many people just regard me as inferior to themselves only because of my gender," said Tumer, who is studying law at university.
"It doesn't really matter what social class you live in, or what kind of urban or rural lifestyle you lead, in the end women are still discriminated (against) largely in societies," said Tumer.
The summit is the brainchild of Belinda Stronach, a former MP and now executive vice-chairman of Magna International Inc.
Stronach challenged the girls to become a voice for women in the international community as she spoke to the crowded room at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.
"Girls have to recognize the value that they can contribute. We have to change the mindset of boys and men so they value girls worldwide," said Stronach.
Panellists, some shedding tears, spoke about violence, poverty and lack of education -- all identified as barriers to a woman's success.
The solution, according to the summit's mantra, is the "the girl effect."
It's similar to the old proverb: Give a man a fish he'll eat for one day, but teach a man to fish he'll have food for a lifetime. In this version, the woman gets the fishing rod.
According to Stronach, when a woman earns greater income, she ends up giving 90 per cent back to her children. This translates to healthier, educated children and in turn, a better society.
Delegate Kartika Nurhayati, 19, from Indonesia, has witnessed how this works in her own community.
She volunteers for an organization that helps empower women by raising money so children living in slums can go to non-formal schools. This allows girls access to education while they still work in the home with their families.
"There's disparity between girls and boys in child rearing. Girls are expected to have more time at home," said Nurhayati, as she explained the realities of life for women in Indonesia.
Many speakers at the summit pointed to the absence of women at the G20 as another issue impeding economic success.
"How many women at the G20 -- one?" said Zainab Salbi from Women for Women International.
"Not good enough," she told the delegates.
Stronach, a former politician, offered some advice to the young delegates.
"They ultimately have to run," she said in an interview, describing how women can have more influence in the political sphere.
As for the young delegates, they may have their voices heard after all at the G20 summit.
The young women's policy conclusions will be sent to the world leaders attending the summit, which runs June 26-27.