Women's Day Special : Female Turkish diplomats driving Africa Policy
Turkey’s Ugandan, Namibian, Ivorian and Mozambique embassies are run by Turkish female ambassadors.
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s links to African nations form an important part of its foreign policy.
Now, ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, four of Ankara’s female diplomats to African states have spoken Anadolu Agency about their work for Turkey overseas.
Aylin Tashan was appointed as Turkey’s ambassador to Mozambique in 2011, making her the first female Turkish ambassador to an African country.
“Although living in Africa [has] some risks, such as security and health, I forgot about all the difficulties that I had faced after seeing the rapidly developing relations between two countries,” Tashan said.
Mozambique’s parliament has 40 percent of female representation and women head five out of 22 ministries, including health, labor and state administration.
“Despite the great distance, I do not feel so far away from my family and friends in the south of Africa,” she adds.
Esra Demir, Turkey’s ambassador to the Ivory Coast said that her first foreign assignment was to Senegal.
Later, she was appointed to the Ivory Coast in 2014 and she feel excitement like the first day:
“I recommend Africa to other Turkish diplomats. Africa is not well known in Turkey, but I think it would be a very good experience for them, despite various deprivations”.
Deniz Cakar, the Turkish ambassador in Windhoek, Namibia, said that she was very happy when she was appointed to the country.
“When I learned that I was appointed to Namibia, I started to search for schools for my son who was studying secondary school. I found the school, felt relief and thought my exciting adventure would start”.
She underlined Turkey’s strong presence in Africa saying:
“Actually, the appointment to Africa is not a surprise for Turkish diplomats because Africa has 54 countries and we have 39 Turkish embassies across the continent.”
Ambassador of Turkey to Uganda, Sedef Yavuzalp, served as the head of West Africa and vice president of East Africa in the Turkish Foreign Ministry for four years before coming to Kampala.
She said that during her previous missions she had a good chance to know Africa and Turkey’s Africa policy very well.
“Turkey’s African expansion is one of the most successful areas for our foreign policy. In this context, our Foreign Ministry’s Africa General Directorate offers good opportunities in this area,” Yavuzalp said.
Turkey adopted its Africa Action Plan in 1998 and the Turkish government declared 2005 as a 'Year of Africa'. Turkey was accorded observer status by the African Union the same year.
Turkey had only 12 embassies in Africa in 2009 but that number rose to 39 by 2015. Additionally, 32 African nations have embassies in Ankara.
Turkey contributes significantly to humanitarian aid on the African continent, spending around $800 million to various aid programs in Africa in the past three years.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) continues its work in 12 different African capitals by providing technical assistance and by carrying out hundreds of small and medium-size projects.
Consular Affairs Deputy Director General Gulsun Erkul has previously said there are 21 women serving at the rank of deputy director general, more than their male equivalents.
According Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are two women serving at director-general rank. The number of women diplomats has increased from 439 to 665 since 2006, according to the ministry.