The 11th October World Girls’ Day Conference, organized in collaboration with UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, and the Aydın Doğan Foundation, was held in Hatay this year with the aim of emphasizing the transformative role of girls and young women in rebuilding lives and cities. The theme of the conference was determined as “Girls are Rebuilding the Future,” and through this event, the needs and desires of girls were conveyed from Hatay to all of Turkey and the world.
The 9th World Girls’ Day Conference, held this year, took place with the participation of representatives from civil society organizations and young people. Journalist Afşin Yurdakul hosted the conference, and Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ, the President of the Aydın Doğan Foundation, expressed their focus on empowering girls and their satisfaction with the developments in this field during the opening speech. She also emphasized that events like earthquakes and pandemics affect girls and women the most and stated their efforts to hear and amplify the voices of girls during these challenging times. Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ emphasized their commitment to valuing the desires, expectations, and goals of girls and providing support in building their futures.
The conference featured important figures such as Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ, the President of the Aydın Doğan Foundation, Paolo Marchi, UNICEF Turkey Representative, Hassan Mohtashami, UNFPA Turkey Representative, and Asya Varbanova, UN Women Turkey Country Director. In this joint session, the problems and threats experienced by girls and young women in the region were discussed, based on assessments made in the aftermath of the earthquakes on February 6th. Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ stated that they provided assistance and support to the region immediately after the earthquake and will continue to work to make a difference in the lives of children and young people during this process.
Paolo Marchi, the UNICEF Turkey Representative, mentioned that they hear the voices of young people and listen to their needs and dreams to build better, strong, youth-friendly, and gender-sensitive cities. He emphasized UNICEF’s commitment to investing in the participation of young people in the post-earthquake recovery process.
Hassan Mohtashami, UNFPA Turkey Representative, pointed out that adolescent girls are often ignored during natural disasters and are at risk during such times. He expressed their commitment to responding to the sexual and reproductive health needs of these girls and their requests for protection from gender-based violence.
Asya Varbanova, UN Women Turkey Country Director, commended the resilience of adolescent girls who faced challenges after earthquakes on the International Day of the Girl Child. She stated their advocacy for the full participation of women and girls in all stages of post-earthquake recovery and their work for gender equality.
During the conference, young people presented the results of youth workshops held under the theme of “reconstruction for equitable cities.” They expressed their needs and expectations after the earthquake and their thoughts on rebuilding cities. The Youth Declaration was prepared in line with the expectations and demands of young people and was read at the conference. They stated their readiness to work together to build more inclusive, accessible, and equitable cities.
In a special segment of the conference where inspiring women interacted with young people, national athlete Şahika Ercümen and other inspiring women participated. Turkish national volleyball player and captain of the national volleyball team, Eda Erdem, also joined with a video message. Young people emphasized their commitment to investing in a future that will become the cornerstone of gender equality, stating, “We are teenagers, we are young, we are valuable, we are strong, and we are here.”
The 9th World Girls’ Day Conference this year aimed to create significant support and awareness for girls and young women. The conference provided an important dialogue platform between civil society organizations, experts, and young people and contributed to taking solution-oriented steps in this regard.
Girls and young women provided important perspectives on the challenges and threats they face in the post-earthquake recovery process. The Youth Declaration, expressed at the conference, was prepared to determine the expectations and desires of young people, and these young people clearly stated their commitment to uniting for gender equality and the construction of equitable cities.
Furthermore, a special segment between inspiring women and young people provided an opportunity for young people to hear about the experiences of successful women who have become role models. This section served as a source of inspiration for young people’s future goals.
The World Girls’ Day Conference emphasized the crucial roles of girls and young women in shaping their communities, highlighting the need to focus on steps toward building more just, equitable, and strong societies for these groups. The conference’s outcome once again underscored the importance of ongoing efforts and collaborations to shape the future of girls and young women.