The United Nations urges Turkey to close the gap in women’s economic and political participation

IWD2016kDespite progress in Turkey, especially in national legislation, the country still has the lowest labour force participation rate for women in Europe. Moreover women comprise only 14.7% of the membership of the Turkish Parliament which is well below the global average. International Women’s Day comes at a pivotal time in history with the international community recognizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a precondition to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality aims to eliminate discrimination and violence against women and girls and ensure equal participation and opportunities in all spheres of life. In this context, the UN urges the Government of Turkey to step up its efforts to close the large gender gap in women’s economic and political participation.

Joint Statement by Mr. Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator, and Ms. Ingibjorg Gisladottir, UN Women’s Representative to Turkey and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2016:

This year, International Women’s Day comes at a pivotal moment in history, with gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls having been recognized as a precondition to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is reflected in a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality that aims to end discrimination and violence against women and girls and ensure equal participation and opportunities in all spheres of life. In addition, important provisions for women’s empowerment are included in most other goals. In line with the global Agenda and national priorities, gender equality and women’s empowerment was agreed by the UN and the Government of Turkey as one of the four key pillars of the UN Development Cooperation Strategy (2016-2020) for Turkey.

Despite progress in Turkey, especially in national legislation, Turkey still ranks as one of the country’s with the largest gender gap in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Index, ranking 130th among 145 countries. Low levels of women’s labor force participation accompanied with occupational segregation also contribute to a big gender pay gap reinforced by the fact that women are overly represented in informal, vulnerable and precarious employment.

The low level of women’s political participation in Turkey is another barrier working against gender equality and women’s empowerment. After the last general election of November 2015, the number of female Parliamentarians increased only marginally from 79 to 81 compared with the parliament formed after the 2011 elections, with women comprising only 14.7% of the members of the Turkish Parliament which is well below the global average

Women’s low level of economic and political participation also illustrates the persistence of gender stereotypes and is a clear signal of the need for extra measures, including temporary special measures to increase women’s opportunities to participate in gainful and decent work and decision making. It is important that the government finalizes and approves a new National Action Plan for Gender Equality that has been under development for some time.

In this respect, the UN in Turkey urges the Government of Turkey to step up its efforts to close the large gender gap in women’s economic and political participation and reiterates its commitment, as outlined in the new UN Development Cooperation Strategy for Turkey, to support the government, parliament and CSOs in their efforts to effectively implement and ensure gender equality in legislative and decision-making processes as well as by ensuring women’s economic empowerment and contributing to the elimination of structural gender inequalities in economic life.

Turkey has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). These international conventions together with the stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality should galvanize the Government to eliminate discriminatory practices and traditions against women and girls and ensure equal participation and opportunities in all spheres of life.

Now is the time to ensure that these international commitments are translated into reality for women and girls on the ground. On International Women’s Day, we call for their reaffirmation and urgent implementation through visible and measurable actions under the motto: Planet 50-50: Step It Up for Gender Equality.