EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH MUSIC EDUCATION

In commemoration of the 19th Anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325
Good Afternoon,
I am, Dr. Aysegul Durakoglu, honored to be a part of the Light Millennium’s Program on the Peace, Women, Security and Secularism to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution.  As an educator in higher education and an active musician, I would like to focus on education to empowering women to conquer their struggles in finding opportunity for an equal education;
and, to touch upon the issues of gender equality in the music industry.
Presented by Ayşegül DURAKOĞLU, PhD, Pianist and Professor of Music,
Stevens Institute of Technology.

At the Multi-Participatory Session of the
Peace, Women, Security & Secularism Event at
The Salvation Army Intl. Social Justice Commission, New York City
On April 11, 2019
Led by The Light Millennium
Associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications


Empowering Women through Education

Education is the key for women not only to achieve economic independence, but also to build strength and self-esteem to take actions and make important decisions in their lives. Although women in the majority of countries have the right to an education as much as man do, equal access to a basic education for women still remains a problem. In most developing countries, millions of women do not find opportunity for basic education, or finish school because they are forced by their society, to focus on household, caregiving and child-rearing responsibilities.

Because women contribute so much to give birth and raise children, empowering them through education is the best way to transform the world and societies in a single generation and will result in more caring, tolerant, and a peaceful life in the world.  I would like to quote an African proverb:

“If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”


We can already see positive results of empowering women through education in different parts of the world. One good example is Sierra Leone where a substantial education program provided increased access to education for primary-school age girls. The program has increased educational attainment and that increase in education has changed women’s preferences. An increase in schooling had an impact on women’s attitudes towards matters that impact women’s health and on attitudes regarding violence against women. An increase in education has also reduced the number of desired children by women and increased their propensity to use modern contraception and to be tested for AIDS and other diseases.

Empowering Women through Music Education

The last twenty years, there has seen a major rise in movements led by women advocating socio-economic, political, cultural and sexual empowerment. Women’s collectives, workgroups and networks are striking out to assert their rights, question certain foundational ethics, merging the personal with the politics, and demanding equal participation and recognition in the workforce. 

There have been several programs and organizations that have been established to empowering girls through music and dance in countries like Mali, Nepal, Kenya, and others. Their goal is to establish gender equality in schools and to help make this world a better place through the power of music. In those programs, women are using music as a tool to empower themselves, reconnect with their culture, and live a better life. 

For example, representation of women in creative, artistic and cultural fields is very low in many developing countries. Further women artists do not receive equal opportunity and visibility. The issue is seldom approached outside the existing institutional structures for women’s and trans-gender equality in India. Men make up %77 of India’s biggest culture industry in terms of income, position, and management. Less than %5 of top Bollywood directors are women and women are paid less than the male actors, directors, or producers.

With the creation and appropriation of many support groups and solidarity networks, sexual and reproductive health solutions, telling women’s stories through music, theatre, dance and visual art, organizing spaces where women are represented, funded, mentored and supported in countries as diverse as Mexico, Russia, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Botswana, Mozambique. Madagascar, and Kyrgyzstan.

Historically, women and girls have been vastly underrepresented in the music industry and education, and still today, they fight to be recognized in different areas of the music industry. The field of music industry and academia, still need a lot of work and improvement for gender equality not only in underrepresented countries, but also in the Western world, including Europe and the United States. For centuries, it was seen immoral to perform publicly and women were only expected to play in private settings. Until recently, women were not allowed to be taught at a conservatory level and were less encouraged to compose or perform music.

Not in developing countries, but in well- established European societies, women did not exist in most major orchestras up until the 1960’s, with a % 4.1 involvement in the United States. In 1982, the Berlin Philharmonic hired its first woman, Madelenne Carruzzo; in 2003 (in the 21st century) the Vienna Philharmonic appointed its first woman musician. Following the end of World War II, the number of woman musicians in classical music increased from % 8 in 1947, to %26.3 in 1982.  The ratio of woman musicians comparing to man in our society in the United States is still very low today and there is a lot of room to make progress in the music industry.

Secularism and Music Education in Turkey

As a NGO-Department of Global Communications – DGC representative of the ASA (Ataturk Society of America) to the United Nations, I would also like to include a brief history of the secularism and music education in my native country, Turkey.  The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, regarded education as the force that would galvanize the nation into social and economic development. He stated his thoughts in an educational conference in 1921, saying that:

“The Governments most creative and significant duty is education.


Right after the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, Turkey initiated a most ambitious program of schooling children and adults; basic education was made free, secular, and co-educational. Women’s education was at the heart of Ataturk’s ideals who said:

“We shall emphasize putting our women’s secondary and higher education on an equal footing with men.”


During the first decade of the Republic, the primary school students increased from 341,941 to almost half a million; the percentage of girls increased from 18.4 to 35 percent. Among the six major principles of the new constitution, secularism became the most important underlying principles in education. In his efforts to establish a secular education, Ataturk gave priority to music education, saying that:

“Sirs! You can be a member of the parliament, can be even a President, but you cannot become Artists… The measure for the transformation of a nation is to be perceived by the changes in its music. There can be no revolution without music.”


I have been very privileged to receive my early education in a secular educational system in Turkey where religious classes were optional in public schools; and also be able to have access to a top quality of music education in Istanbul Conservatory, educated by highly qualified, competent music instructors who were mostly women, equally treated by their male colleagues.

In 1984, I had an opportunity to receive one of the top scholarship program, established by Ataturk, to pursue my graduate studies in the United States (at Juilliard School and New York University) Now, I have been concertizing nationally and internationally as a concert pianist and have also dedicated most of my time to music education at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Knowing the impact of empowering education and music education in my personal life, I will advocate the education to empower young generations, particularly young women with the hope that they will overcome the obstacles about gender equality and will have their own voice to transform their societies in a much better and peaceful world.

_ . _

About Ayşegül DURAKOĞLU, PhD, Pianist and Professor of Music, Stevens Institute of Technology.
Since her highly acclaimed New York recital debut at Merkin Concert Hall, pianist Aysegul Durakoglu has concertized widely as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States, Europe, Russia, Canada, and Turkey.

She was featured as soloist in the International Istanbul and Anakara Music Festivals with James Galway; various music festivals in Europe, Russia and Canada and Jazz at Lincoln Center; CMS International Conferences in Buenos Aires and Canada and World Piano Conferences in Serbia. Most recently, she has completed a new album titled “Dances through the Keyboard,” and played a recital for the OSCE Members in Vienna in July 2018.Aysegul Durakoglu began her musical life in Istanbul, Turkey. As a recipient of a scholarship, she came to the United States to pursue her graduate studies at Juilliard School, and received a Ph.D. degree with notable distinction at New York University. Dr. Durakoglu has been an Associate Professor of Music at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and the NGO representative of the Ataturk Society of America to the UN-DGC-CSO www.ayseguldurakoglu.com

Photo Album of the Multi-Participatory Session on:
Peace and Women and Security, and Secularism – 2
http://www.lightmillennium.org/gallery1/index.php/Peace-and-Women-and-Security-and-Secularism-2

Concept Note:

Event photo credit: Demet DEMIRKAYA, The Light Millennium

Social Media: @lightmillennium @turkishlibrarymuseum (Facebook & Twitter) @The Light Millennium (LinkedIn) @UN-DGC-CSO #UNDGC_CSO #UNSCR1325 #1325AndSecularism

The U.S. Turkish Library & Museum Project is under The Light Millennium Organization, Associated with the Department of Global Communications of the United Nations (formerly #UNDPINGO). http://www.turkishlibrary.us | http://www.isikbinyili.org | http://www.lightmillennium.org

"The U.S. Turkish Library & Museum For Friendship and Peace" project joined, and has been produced under the umbrealla of The Light Millennium Organization effective on October 15, 2015.