Turkish Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya said Tuesday that Turkey has had an "silent revolution" in terms of women's rights and empowerment under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the past 15 years.
Kaya stressed the importance of female empowerment and economic development in an address at the United Nations in New York.
"It is impossible to achieve sustainable development goals without the contribution of women," she said in a meeting of foreign delegates at a women's summit. "For this reason, it is of vital importance for women to have their rightful status in almost all spheres of life."
Further speaking on the revolutionary changes for women in Turkey, Kaya said, "During this process, we have established our main policies based on the prevention of all kinds of discrimination against women and have effectively combatted violence against women as well as ensuring women's empowerment."
The efforts have borne fruit with an ever increasing number of female participation across the board in Turkey - soaring school enrollment in the last 15 years, a workforce that has expanded 45 percent and female employment up 75 percent in the last 12 years.
The push for greater roles for women has been coupled with policies that have been implemented to give women greater flexibility in the workforce, including more time for things like maternity and breastfeeding leaves, flexible working hours and better childcare support.
"The great transformation that we have accomplished in Turkey's health care sector has reflected on women's health care services as well," Sayan Kaya said, adding that access to prenatal care is now at 99 percent while 98 percent of childbirth deliveries were performed by healthcare personnel.
The care and well-being of Turks are not the only concern for Sayan Kaya's agency. Turkey currently hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, who she described as her country's "brothers and sisters." Of them, 71 percent are women and children. "We have provided their basic needs like education, health, food and shelter. We have used all our means available to heal the deep wounds inflicted on women and children by war, terrorism and migration. And we will continue to do so," she said.
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