By Humeyra Atilgan Buyukovali
A Turkish cabinet minister has blamed early marriage, underemployment and a lack of access to education for female poverty.
Sema Ramazanoglu, Turkey's minister for family and social policies, was speaking at a ‘gender justice’ congress held in Istanbul on Thursday.
Her remarks came in a week which will see International Women's Day celebrated on March 8 with activities focusing on women's achievements and difficulties in economic, political and social life.
The Women and Democracy Association, or KADEM, worked with Istanbul Trade University to organize the second gender justice congress with a theme of ‘Women and Poverty’.
"Poverty is not only an economic problem, but a problem which deeply affects society, socially and psychologically," said KADEM president, Sare Aydin Yilmaz.
She said poverty very often underlies many of the other problems that women face.
One of the reasons why poverty is "a humanitarian problem," is that women are mostly deprived of an economic life, Yilmaz believes.
In Turkey, female labor force participation is on an upward trend, reaching 31.8 percent in October 2015 with an increase of 0.9 points when compared to the same period in 2014.
According to data from ‘Woman in Turkey, August 2015’ -- a report from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies -- this rate was 23.3 percent in 2004 increasing to 26 percent in 2009.
However, this increase in women’s participation in labor "might result in a more anxious new generation" if women are not supported to balance their family life with the working life, Yilmaz said.
She shared a recent study by the association, which showed that over 50 percent of the women complained about difficulties in managing family life, work commitments and career advancement at the same time.
"Leaving them alone with the responsibilities at home and pushing them into a competition environment at work is not fair," Yilmaz said.
Omer Caha from Istanbul's Yildiz Technical University agreed, saying social expectations for women and cultural values were some of the factors that hinder women's career goals.
He was talking about the 'glass ceiling syndrome' -- unseen barriers that make it difficult or impossible for women to rise in the ranks of their career, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.
Caha also pointed to instances of discrimination against women at work.
At hospitals across Turkey, 56 percent of total employees are women, Caha said, but only around 12 percent were in management.
Access to education and work is more difficult for women, said Piyale Citil, a researcher who has been working on women-and-poverty issues for 15 years.
"That is why women constitute 70 percent of all the poor across the world," she said.
Stressing that poverty is a problem at all times and in all societies, she said "it is always the women who have to deal with poverty in the family."