Women’s groups to monitor the local elections in Turkey from gender equality perspective

İlknur Üstün, Women’s Coalition Coordinator, makes her opening speech. Photo Credit: UN Women
İlknur Üstün, Women’s Coalition Coordinator, makes her opening speech.
Photo Credit: UN Women

Ahead of the local elections in Turkey to be held in March, UN Women and the Women’s Coalition brought together more than 100 women from across the country to discuss the monitoring of the elections.

UN Women supported the local election monitoring efforts of local actors and civil society organisations before the local elections that will take place in March 2019 in Turkey.

UN Women, together with the Women’s Coalition, brought together more than 100 women from across the country to discuss the monitoring of the local elections from a gender equality perspective as part of the “Gender Equality in Political Leadership and Political Participation in Turkey”, funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. 

Women’s Coalition is a multi-stakeholder platform that advocates for women’s equal participation in public, financial and political life, as well as decision-making processes. The Coalition is also engaged in monitoring women’s equal representation and participation in election processes and outcomes.

“Women candidates are often exposed to different forms of violence and gender-based discrimination. They generally have fewer supportive social networks and resources to ensure their protection. Gender-responsive elections monitoring can help reveal the violence that women face as candidates, voters and elections officials,” said Sabine Freizer, UN Women Regional Advisor for Governance, Peace and Security for Europe and Central Asia and made a presentation about gender-based violence.

Taking place in Ankara, capital of Turkey, on 11 and 12 January, the event created a platform for the participants to plan the content, methodology, coordination and tracking of the monitoring of local elections. The participants discussed the challenges and opportunities regarding women’s political participation. Local actors talked about the various forms of discrimination, including particularly virtual violence and bullying, against women candidates and activists in the monitoring process and discussed the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Istanbul Convention.

“Women’s Coalition has been monitoring local elections for 18 years. Women are fighting to take part in policy-making processes. You cannot talk about democracy unless women are present in political parties and local administrations,” said Ilknur Ustun, Coordinator of the Women’s Coalition

“Gender-based virtual violence against women politicians is a barrier to women’s political participation as well as violation of human rights,” said Nurcihan Temur, a member of Women’s Coalition.

“Women’s political participation is an obvious and critical materialization of gender equality. Every election is an opportunity to increase women’s political participation but is also carries risks for women’s representation as large. It is therefore critical to monitor the actual conditions of the elections as a civil society and to bring to light any form of gender-based discrimination for free and fair elections,” said Malin Stawe, Counsellor/Head of Pre-Accession and Humanitarian Assistance at the Embassy of Sweden.

“Feminism is a democracy demand for women. Feminist struggle is the most powerful tool to make local democracy possible,” said Gülnur Elçik, a feminist activist.

“We want local governments to adopt preventive and protective measures to prevent sexual violence, develop collaborations with local NGOs, carry out trainings for staff and open youth centers. We expect them to create resources and develop policies,” said Şehlem Kaçar, a member of the Association for Struggle against Sexual Violence

UN Women is working to support women’s leadership and political participation under the “Gender Equality in Political Leadership and Political Participation in Turkey” project, financially supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). One of the objectives of the project is to enable gender equality advocates to influence the legal frameworks and policies that will promote women’s leadership and political participation. To that end, the meeting aimed to support the local election monitoring efforts of local actors and civil society organisations in Turkey.