Score: Victory of Girls

Towards a more equalitarian society by eliminating gender disparities


Summer 2011. In a low income area of the capital city, Ankara, a 15 year old girl Yasemin was utterly disappointed and scared. Her new step mother did not want to live with her. She was sent to her aunt’s house, additionally, being forced to quit school and to get married to a man who she even did not know the name. Yasemin was supposed to start her high school education in autumn. However the facts she faced seem not to be solved easily, the young girl is being seen as a burden to everyone around her. Yasemin says “If I was a boy, I am sure, things could have been much different.”

 

Highlights

  • The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 14.4 % and that of local government is less than 0.56%.
  • Women’s participation in labour force is only at around 29.3%, which put Turkey below all other OECD members and many developing countries worldwide.
  • According to Gender Inequality Index (GII), that reveals gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation, Turkey ranks 68th out of 148 countries.

According to the 2010 MDG Progress report of Turkey, Turkey has almost reached the target of eliminating gender inequality in primary education although the proportion of girls who are not taking up secondary education is noteworthy.  Yet, the MDG Progress Report highlights the existing structural inequalities; especially those related to geographical and social gender disparities as remaining challenges for the achievement of MDGs.

 

The primary gaps are found in the participation of women in decision making and in the labour force: The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 14.4 % (with only 79 seats held by women in the 550-member parliament) and that of local government is less than 0.56% (the women’s representation in the local councils is 4%). Women’s participation in the labour force is only at around 29.3%, which put Turkey below all other OECD members and many developing countries worldwide.

 

According to the Gender Inequality Index (GII) of 2012, that reveals gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation, Turkey ranks 64th out of 148 countries. 

 

UNDP Turkey is one of the leading international actors to support the country in its goal of achieving gender equality.

 

The agency, through its cooperation with the women movement in Turkey as well, leads a successful campaign to have an increase in women participation and representation at local and national levels.

 

This campaign resulted in a stable increase of the proportion of women at the Parliament, from 4.4% in 2002 to 9% in 2007 and then 14.4% in 2013 by respective general elections.

 

This campaign also contributed to, and accelerated the establishment of the Commission of Equal Opportunities for the Man and Woman in the Parliament.

 

The Cooperation with the Commission results in training of the MPs and legal experts how to mainstream gender to legislation making processes as well as review of the fundamental legislation through gender lenses.

 

UNDP, again owing to this cooperation, has contributed to amendments of Parliamentary By-laws.

 

At the local level, in cooperation with other sister UN agencies, UNDP introduced the Local Equality Plans addressing to the expectations and needs of the women as half of the population.

 

The Local Equality Plans are developed through Local Equality Commissions, platforms representing a broad range of social actors, including the community based organizations to evolve the service delivery and governance more gender responsive and sensitive.

 

The Government of Turkey supports these platforms through secondary legislation to encourage the local authorities by introducing the notion of “Women Friendly Cities”. Currently more than 50 local authorities launched these plans and allocate revenues to operationalize the local equality plans.

 

To meet the evolved needs of the Ministry of Interior to coach the local authorities for gender sensitive and responsive service delivery UNDP in Turkey is also working on a structure to be established within the Ministry.  

 

Another phase of the local initiative is the Women Councils as democratic and participatory structures established in the scope of LA 21 Program. These councils set the ground for the visibility of the women as key stakeholders of their communities.

 

The women coalition established by the women councils has contributed to the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Committee in the Parliament: A Committee that traces claims regarding gender based discrimination incidents among its other official duties like monitoring the legislation process and its conformity with gender equality concept.

 

Back in Ankara, Yasemin is experiencing her first day in her new school in mid September, not believing in her eyes at all. “Everything happened in an unbelievably fast pace” she says. Hearing her bitter story, a women rights NGO takes the issue to the Parliament’s Gender Equality Committee. Committee examines the issue with a great care and the district governor where Yasemin lives is being informed about her plight. She’s being enrolled to a local “Girls Vocational High School” by related officials and awarded with a regular scholarship payment for her study and living expenses. “They [Committee of the Parliament] followed my case very closely, I’m grateful to everybody who helped me” she says. While she still lives with her aunt, we are asking if she is happy right now: “I’m definitely happier and more hopeful than ever” she replies, smiling.