COOP Champions

Özge Berber-Agtaş, ILO Office for Turkey in Ankara

COOP Champions features ILO colleagues from around the world working on cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises. It highlights their contributions, and shares highlights of their experiences, current work, and future aspirations.

Article | 06 July 2017
Ms Özge Berber-Agtaş
Özge Berber-Agtaş holds Master’s Degrees in Political Science from the Ankara University in Turkey and in Labour Policies and Globalisation from the Global Labour University (GLU) in Germany. Ms Berber Agtaş has a trade union background with experience in international labour movement and gender equality. After her graduation from the GLU in 2008, she worked as an intern at the Bureau of Workers’ Activities at the ILO, after which she joined the ILO Office for Turkey in Ankara where she currently works as Programme and Admin Officer. Özge is particularly interested in international trade unionism, labour rights, gender equality, cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy initiatives, domestic workers and international migration.

Having worked extensively in the field of gender equality, Özge believes that without women’s empowerment and equal participation in all spaces of social and political life, a vision of sustainable development and protection of human rights cannot be fully achieved. Bearing this in mind, she has been collaborating with women cooperatives in Turkey and facilitated the organization of training programmes for women cooperatives on human rights and gender equality. ILO is seeking further opportunities to reveal the potential of women cooperatives towards advancing gender equality and economic empowerment through generating jobs for women from all segments of society, who often work in the informal economy.

Özge participated and presented a paper in the International Research Conference on Cooperatives and the World of Work, co-organized by the ILO and the International Cooperative Alliance Committee on Cooperative Research, which took place in Antalya in November 2015. More recently she has worked on cooperatives particularly in the context of the national working group in advancing statistics on cooperatives; and around exploring cooperatives for achieving decent work among waste pickers, who are among the most disadvantaged groups of workers in Turkey, filling the gaps in waste management system and generating economic value from recycled materials. In close collaboration with ILO’s Cooperatives Unit, the ILO Office for Turkey has provided technical assistance to the General Directorate of Cooperatives of the Ministry of Customs and Trade in promoting cooperatives as a new initiative of organizing waste pickers. This has a great potential to ensure better working and living conditions with social protection for these workers. In this context, ILO supported a background study on cooperative potential for waste pickers in the recycling industry in Turkey where Ozge has provided inputs. She also technically supported the translation of the ILO’s brief on cooperatives and the future of work into Turkish.

Özge is keenly interested in promoting rights of domestic workers and home-based workers in Turkey. She has been supporting domestic workers and home-based workers in their efforts to establish a collective identity either under trade unions or cooperatives to raise awareness on core labour rights and better working conditions in the country. Given the joint history and common goals of cooperatives and trade unions, particularly in fostering decent work and industrial democracy, she believes that new and inspiring models of domestic workers’ collective actions under cooperatives and trade unions can provide an opportunity for workers who are mostly invisible and vulnerable in the society to organize and raise their voices.

Özge believes that as the global experience of vulnerable workers has shown, social and solidarity economy is a strategic way to tackle the growth of precarious employment and to promote democratic values in the industrial relations. Within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, cooperatives and other social enterprises can play a key role in promoting women’s’ empowerment and realizing goal of decent work all around the world.