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Gender equality

Gender equality and democratic governance

Gender equality and democratic governance 

Gender equality is a crucial feature of democratic societies. Public institutions must provide services that advance the human rights of women and men equally and consider their specific experiences and needs.

Women’s political empowerment is crucial to ensuring decisions are credible and legitimate. When women and men share the power to make decisions and lead, the benefits are felt throughout their communities.

Limited or unequal access to justice and legal services, especially during crises and conflicts, can weaken protections for vulnerable groups. A functional law enforcement and justice system is particularly important in preventing sexual and gender-based violence, which remains a pervasive violation of the fundamental rights of women, girls, and members of LGBTI communities.

UNDP works to advance gender equality in access to justice and governance processes by:

  • Improving women's access to justice and legal services;
  • Facilitating and advocating for women’s participation in governance institutions;
  • Supporting efforts to prevent and combat sexual and gender-based violence.


Political participation

When men and women participate equally in decision-making, parliaments and local councils perform better and governments become more credible and accountable.

Although many countries and territories in Europe and Central Asia have laws establishing gender quotas for legislatures and government, significant gaps remain in women’s participation. Even after entering public service, women encounter a wide range of obstacles and discrimination stemming from gender stereotypes and cultural traditions. In public administration, women tend to occupy positions at lower levels in the hierarchy or in sectors considered less crucial.

The UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub has created the Equal Future platform, to raise awareness of women’s underrepresentation in politics and public administration in Europe and Central Asia, and to accelerate progress towards gender equality in decision-making. 

UNDP works to increase gender equality in the political and public spheres by:

  • Providing statistical data, projections and analyses on women’s representation in politics and public administration, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and #ShePersisted, to highlight current barriers and challenges, and support the development of gender responsive policies;
  • Supporting the introduction of gender quotas and legislation that promotes women’s political participation;
  • Training parliamentarians on how to conduct gender analyses and advocate for more equality;
  • Mobilizing women to get involved in politics and public institutions at all levels;
  • Helping build coalitions to promote gender equality in the national agenda;
  • Advancing the role of women in peacebuilding, conflict resolution and security efforts.


Sexual and gender-based violence

Violence against women and girls remains a pervasive violation of fundamental rights in most countries and territories in the region. It occurs across all socio-economic groups and at all levels of education. Despite progress in legislation, prevention and prosecution, violence against women and girls is still widespread, with multiple repercussions on their wellbeing. Moreover, during or in the aftermath of conflicts, the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence increases, while access to justice for survivors can be severely impeded. Incidents of violence against women and girls, both online and offline, sharply increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.

UNDP supports efforts to end sexual and gender-based violence by:

  • Helping parliaments develop legal frameworks on combating and prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence and securing the rights of survivors;
  • Advocating for policies that combat early and forced marriage, human trafficking and other harmful practices;
  • Strengthening tracking mechanisms to increase reporting of incidents of sexual and gender-based violence;
  • Training law enforcement officers, healthcare providers, social workers, and prosecutors so they can join forces to address cases of sexual and gender-based violence;
  • Facilitate access to justice and services for survivors of conflict-related violence.