To empower women, municipal work needs a gender perspective

At local gender equality workshops organized by UN Women, women city councillors in Turkey, learned how vital they are for developing solutions to the challenges that women face in their constituencies.


Women councilors from different political parties came together at the local gender equality workshops. Photo: UN Women Turkey
Women councilors from different political parties came together at the local gender equality workshops. Photo: UN Women Turkey

UN Women continues to expand its series of workshops that aim to support women politicians and create more space for women in politics. Workshop training sessions allow participants to examine ways to empower women candidates and elected officials and share their experiences in overcoming barriers and empowering women by applying a gender perspective to municipal policies and services.

To date, nearly 200 women from 15 provinces have received training and information on issues like gender equality, gender sensitive service delivery and violence against women in politics.

Most recently, 35 women councillors attended two-day February workshops in Samsun and Muğla, which focused on gender sensitive local policies and municipal services. The expert presentations helped to sharpen the participants’ knowledge and skills as councillors and illustrated the larger concepts of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Participants learned about gender sensitive service delivery and gender responsive budgeting, international conventions and Turkey’s related commitments to treaty bodies, and about the Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“All agreed that to empower women, municipal work needs a gender perspective,” said Duygu Arig, Project Coordinator from UN Women in Turkey. 

“We, as a group of women, were able to hold positive round table discussions on the challenges facing our constituents, districts and provinces,” said Ruya Belur Ozdemir, member of city council in Ayvacik, Samsun, a province of Turkey on the Black Sea coast.

They discussed the main problems facing women at the local level of politics, including ways to develop gender responsive local service and eliminate violence against women and obstacles preventing women from taking part in politics.

“A major reason why we see so few women in politics is that women take on a heavy care burden for children, the elderly, patients and the disabled,” said Associate Professor Emel Memis, a workshop trainer. “Municipalities can play an important role in addressing this problem, and the decision-makers who will find solutions will likely be women councillors.”

Their focus extended beyond the challenges that women face. “We also discussed what we could do for groups other than women that need special policies, such as the elderly, children and people with disabilities,” said Nazife Gürsoy Arslan, district member of city council in Milas, Muğla, a south western province of Turkey. 

“We learned that solutions to women’s problems come largely through women,” said Muğla city council member Melek Gozde Gursoy Hosafci, also a district member of Fethiye city council.

The workshops are organized within the Gender Equality in Political Leadership and Participation in Turkey project funded by Sweden through Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). UN Women is planning to extend the workshops to different provinces of Turkey.