Leadership and political participation

Photo: UN Women

Women across Turkey continue to face leadership and political participation challenges, despite government laws to improve legal gender equality mechanisms.

Women are under-represented in decision-making throughout Turkey, particularly at the political level where their political representation remains below international benchmarks.

In June 2015 general elections, women made up 17.8 per cent of representatives elected to the Turkish Grand National Assembly. Although this is an increase from the 2011 election, when women made up 14. 4 per cent of the National Assembly, both figures are well below the global average of 22 per cent and the 30 per cent target set by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1995. However after November 2015 general elections female representation in the parliament fell again from 17.8 per cent to 14.9 per cent which is almost back to the 2011 percentages. This rapid and major change between two elections prove the importance of temporary special measures and the review of election, local administrations and political parties’ laws.

Since it opened in 2012, the UN Women Turkey office has worked to unlock progress for women’s leadership and political participation. It does this by providing expert support to government and civil society efforts to:

  • Strengthen women’s political leadership and participation;
  • Increase the number of elected women politicians, particularly at the local level;
  • 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 Women’s Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating violence against Women was opened for signature (on 11 May 2011); and Turkey became the first country to ratify the Convention (on 25 November 2011);
  • The Beijing+20 Platform for Action, which calls for removing all barriers to equal participation was signed by Turkey in 1995.

UN Women in Action in Turkey

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

The Project works to ensure that legal frameworks and policies influenced by gender equality advocates are in place and properly implemented to advance Turkish women’s political participation. The Turkish Parliament’s Committee on Equal Opportunity for Women and Men will be the main beneficiary of the Project, which will continue for three years and is financially supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

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