Empowering Women in the Mediterranean: Insights from Algeria and Türkiye on IWD

On International Women’s Day, Interreg NEXT MED highlights women’s integration into the labour market in Algeria and Türkiye through interviews with Ms. Nadia Kaassis and Ms. Şebnem Sözer, representing the two new member countries. These discussions offer insights into the challenges and advancements in gender equality in the workplace within these nations.

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As Algeria and Türkiye has joined Interreg NEXT MED Programme, we seize the opportunity to introduce our representatives from the national authority of these 2 countries to get to know them, their experience, their expectations regarding the contribution of the programme to advance on women integration in the labour market. For instance, Algeria guarantees equal pay to women and men for the same job. While Türkiye shows a high percentage of women participation in the job market. In such a cooperation programme, we always learn from each other’s experiences.

Ms. Kaassis, you are the National Contact Point (NCP) of Algeria for the Interreg NEXT MED Programme and you work at the National Center for Studies and Analysis for Population and Development (CENEAPED). Could you briefly explain your professional background and your position within the CENEAPED?

I am Nadia Kaassis, with a degree in economics and a Specialized Post Graduation (PGS) diploma in business management. I began my professional career at the National Center for Studies and Analysis for Population and Development (CENEAPED). I had the opportunity to be recruited directly after finishing my university studies, without having to go through a period of unemployment. I´m currently the Head of the Local Development Studies Department and I am at the same time the National Contact Point (NCP) in Algeria for the Interreg NEXT MED Programme.

During my professional career, I had to go through all the steps. Over the years, my growing experience and skill development have significantly enhanced my technical and managerial capabilities, leading me to the responsible position I now hold. My role is to lead and coordinate multidisciplinary teams in the field, carrying out studies related to local development.

Beyond the social status and the improvement of my financial resources which allowed me to be autonomous and independent, my work within CENEAPED, based essentially on field work, gave me the opportunity to know a very large part of the four corners of my country (East, West, North South), both geographically and socio-culturally, because Algeria is known for the immensity of its territory and for its great sociocultural diversity.

In Algeria, the modification of the Algerian Constitution of March 2016 introduced article 36: Art. 36. (new) — The State works to promote parity between men and women in the job market. The State encourages the promotion of women to responsibilities in public institutions and administrations as well as at the corporate level. What good practices implemented in Algeria would you like to share with the Interreg NEXT MED Programme to improve women’s inclusion in the Mediterranean labour market?

It is true that the recognition of the role of women in Algeria and all of their rights are enshrined through the legislative and regulatory system which integrates them as full players in the process of economic and social development by guaranteeing the principles of equality and non-discrimination between women and men. These rights are guaranteed primarily by the Constitution (articles 37, 40). The right to access to employment is reinforced by Law 90-11 of August 21, 1990 on labour relations, which articles 17 and 142 protect working women from all forms of discrimination in matters of pay and conditions of work, thus guaranteeing her the right to a salary equal to that of a man. Likewise, under the law, the Algerian woman has the right to have her own property, to manage it personally and to have control over it (article 674 of the civil code). This is how Algeria has always worked for the promotion and empowerment of women. In this sense, measures have been taken by setting up a job creation and entrepreneurship system. The desire of Algerian women to start a business has actually materialized on the ground: according to statistics, between 2019 and 2021, 64% of credits from the National Microcredit Management Agency (ANGEM) were granted to women. In addition to having acquired a status in society, this demonstrates the good reception and acceptability of Algerian society towards women as business leaders and entrepreneurs.

In terms of women’s participation in political life, Algerian law guarantees the principle of gender parity. Despite its presence in elected bodies and in government, results still fall short of women’s aspirations.

Algeria participates in the Interreg NEXT MED Programme. This is something new for the programme. What are your expectations as National Contact Point regarding the participation of Algerian entities in future NEXT MED projects related to women?

The Interreg NEXT MED is an opportunity for Algerian entities to share with Mediterranean partners their know-how and skills to achieve the objectives and priorities set by the programme, within the framework of joint actions and initiatives. I hope that these initiatives will be built by involving women as project leaders and also as beneficiaries of the project results.

According to the first reactions I had following the information day of Interreg NEXT MED organized in Algiers on the 8th of February 2024, I have no doubt that Algerian women will mark their presence in the 1st call for proposals with innovative project ideas.

Ms. Şebnem Sözer, you are the head of cross-border cooperation programmes´ department at the General Directorate of Financial Cooperation and Project Implementation – Directorate for European Union Affairs. You represent the national authority of Türkiye for the Interreg NEXT MED Programme. Can you please tell us about your professional career and your current position?

I am an architect. However I have not been practicing since I started to work in my orgarnisation in 2006, which was then called Secretariat General for EU Affairs. As an expert, I was given the task of cross-border cooperatin programmes. In the course of the years, the Unit for Cross-border Cooperation was established in 2010 where I was appointed as its coordinator and young colleagues joined in. In 2019, the Department for CBC Programs was established and I was appointed as the head of department. We grew from one-person-task to a big department with huge responsibilities. We are in charge of negotiating at the highest level with the European Commission, like Financing Agreements, to the very details of implementation by the projects. We are lucky to see the full cycle of our tasks, from our hard work at the office to the results achieved by the projects in the field. This gives me and to my team the biggest work satisfaction because we are never alienated from any part of the work, knowing it always means something in the eligible regions. This satisfaction is what keeps our work going, despite all the challenges we are facing.

According to the World Bank´s data from 2022, women´s participation in the labour market in Türkiye is 33.2% which is quite high compared to other Mediterranean countries. Could you please share some good practices implemented in your country to contribute to the increase of women participation in the labour market?

Türkiye has adopted several action plans addressing empowerment of women. These include the Strategy Paper and Action Plan for Empowering Women. These are covered under the chapters 23 ( judiciary and fundamental rights) and 19 (employment and social policy) in the course of accession negotiations with the EU.

As for specifically women’s participation in labour market, several legislations and strategies were enforced to encourage women’s employment and entrepreneurship. The work is ongoing for National Employment Strategy 2024-2028 and Strategy for Empowerment of Women and Action Plan 2024-2028.

Türkiye has joined the Interreg NEXT MED Programme. What are your expectations regarding the participation of Turkish organisations in projects related to women inclusion in the labour market?

First of all, let me begin by saying that we are so excited to be joining Interreg NEXT MED Programme. In our two other programmes, namely Bulgaria-Türkiye and the Black Sea Basin CBC Programmes, we had some projects related to empowerment of women. To list some examples, in 2007-2013 period, we had a project under Bulgaria-Türkiye CBC Programme, titled, “Woman is Woman Everywhere” where two NGOs were the beneficiaries, focusing on the social problems of women on two sides of the border and developing joint solutions.

Another example is from the same programme in 2014-2020 period, titled, “ECO WOMAN – Initiatives to Manage Natural Resources for Better Life” whose beneficiaries were a women’s NGO (Bulgaria) and Edirne Chamber of Commerce (Türkiye). Project activities included trainigs and implementations related to environmental protection, for environment sensitive labour market targeting women.

A third example is from ENI Black Sea Basin Programme. The Project title is “Black Sea Women Entrepreneurship Connection – Empowering Women through Tourism – WE TOUR.” KAGİDER (Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey) is the Turkish beneficiary of the project.

We expect that we will have more projects about women’s participation and cooperation in Interreg NEXT MED Programme. Knowing this programme has a special focus on empowering of women, we are looking forward to implementing joint projects in this theme.

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