Leadership and political participation

Photo: UN Women

Despite laws to improve legal gender equality mechanisms, women across Turkey face continued leadership and political participation challenges and are under-represented in decision-making, particularly at the political level where their share of representation remains below international benchmarks.

After rising in the June 2015 general elections to make up 17.8 per cent of Turkish Grand National Assembly representatives, female representation in parliament fell to 14.9 per cent in the November 2015 elections – barely above its 14.4 per cent after the 2011 election.

These figures are well below the global average for women parliamentarians of 22.8 per cent and the 30 per cent target set by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1995. They show the need for temporary special measures to increase the number of elected women officials and of continued monitoring of political party rules and candidate selection and local and national elections.

Since it opened in 2012, the UN Women Turkey office has provided expert support to government and civil society efforts to:

  • Strengthen women’s political leadership and participation;
  • Increase the number of women elected to political positions;
  • Fulfil Turkey’s national and international gender equality commitments and enact laws and strategies to meet its obligations deriving from these commitments.

The key international commitments made to women by the Government of Turkey are:

  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), ratified in 1985 and which upholds women’s right to participate in public life;
  • The Council of Europe’s Istanbul Conventionon preventing and combating violence against women, which Turkey was the first country to ratify on 14 March 2012;
  • The Beijing+20 Platform for Action, which calls for removing all barriers to equal participation and was signed by Turkey in 1995.

UN Women in Action in Turkey

To increase women’s leadership and participation in Turkish politics and decision making, UN Women and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) launched the Gender Equality in Political Leadership and Participation in Turkey project in December 2014.

Working closely with the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TGNA) and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Gender Equality project is implemented by UN Women in partnership with the IPU and the TGNA’s Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men (EOC). Focusing on Parliament as a model institution uniquely placed to drive change and lead by example, the project aims to:

  • Adopt and implement legal frameworks and policies that advance gender equality and women’s right to participate in decision making;
  • Promote women’s leadership and participation in politics using gender responsive measures, such as parliamentary mechanisms, processes and services;
  • Assist gender equality advocates influence legal frameworks and policies to increase women’s leadership and political participation.

This Project builds on UN Women’s previous work with the IPU and UNDP, also funded by SIDA, in the UN Joint Programme on Fostering an Enabling Environment for Gender Equality in Turkey, which reviewed 31 fundamental pieces of Turkish legislations from a gender equality perspective. This led to a self-assessment exercise by the Turkish Parliament based on IPU’s “Gender Sensitive Parliaments” method, making it only the fifth parliament in the world to do so.