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A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women

ANKARA, 8 March 2013 – Violence against women and girls is still a global epidemic, that inflicts all segments of societies and communities regardless of geography or economic development level. The shocking crimes of violence against women and girls come from around the world on almost a daily basis. What is worst is that in some cases the victims are punished for the crimes they fell prey for. All too often, perpetrators go unpunished while women and girls are afraid to speak out because of a culture of impunity. 

To remind the international community of its pledge to end violence against women and punish the abusers, this year’s theme for the March 8th International Women’s Day has been set as “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”.

This year the United Nations continues to urge the international community to declare that crimes against women will be prosecuted and women will not be allowed to be punished for the abuses they have suffered.

Global figures clearly show that the international community should take urgent steps and renew its pledge to combat this global health menace wherever it may lurk,  in homes and businesses, and in the minds of people who allow violence to continue.

Global statistics show an alarming increase in violence against women and girls:

  • Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  • Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.
  • Between 500,000 to 2 million people, the majority of them women and children, are trafficked annually into situations including prostitution, forced labour, slavery or servitude, according to estimates.
  • Worldwide among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined, according to World Bank data.

In Turkey violence against women is also an issue that has to be addressed.

  • In Turkey, 4 out of 10 women face physical/sexual violence by their husband and/or partner.
  • Honor killings are serious crimes targeting mainly women.
  • Child brides constitute one out of every three marriages in Turkey.

However, inequalities women have to face are not limited to violence.

  • Women dominate low-pay, low-status, part-time or contract work that offers limited opportunities for social security coverage. Even for similar kinds of work, women are typically paid 20-30% less than men.
  • FAO evidence shows that female-headed households were more affected by the food price crisis than male-headed households, regardless of level of education and of residence in urban or rural areas.
  • Worldwide, for every 100 boys out of school there are 122 girls out of school. But in some countries the gender gap is much wider.
  • Gender-based discrimination, trafficking in women and girls, integration difficulties, under-representation in politics, unequal access to resources, unequal employment strategies, and lack of access to basic services, are the key factors behind the unequal status of migrant women.
  • Refugee women face several protection problems today such as safety and security; equal access to humanitarian assistance; registration and documentation; and procedures; and trafficking in women and girls.

In Turkey, although internationally commendable steps have been taken, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality. 

  • The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 14.1% (with only 78 seats held by women in the 550-member parliament) and that of local government is less than 2%.
  • Turkey ranks 77th out of 146 countries according to Gender Inequality Index (GII), which reveals gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation. 
  • Compared to labour force participation rates for men that was 71.8% as of November 2012 (the latest available data), an estimate of only 30.2% of women were in the labour force. This falls far behind the global average rate of 51.1%.
  • Due to the prevalence of negative gender stereotypes based on social, economic and cultural barriers, women face serious difficulties entering and remaining in the labour market. This is clearly seen in the non-agricultural unemployment rate for women, which was 17.3% as of November 2012.
  • Insufficient child and elderly care public services, gender-based division of labour in the labour market and a patriarchal mindset are among the reasons restricting the entry of women into labour force.
  • Women are mostly employed by the agriculture sector in rural areas and by the services sector in urban areas. 
  • According to the MDG Progress Report for Turkey, the country has almost reached the target of eliminating gender inequality in primary education although the proportion of girls who are not taking up secondary education is noteworthy. 

United Nations agencies in Turkey, in cooperation with the government, NGOs and media, work for empowerment of women individually or through joint programmes. 

  • As part of the new strategic framework, FAO has made gender mainstreaming central to all of its development policies and programmes.
  • FAO provides technical support in the gathering and analyzing of sex-disaggregated data for the agricultural and rural development sectors. It also raises awareness on the importance of gender, equity in access to resources, goods, services and decision-making in rural areas as well as decent rural employment issues for achieving food security and agricultural development.
  • ILO promotes decent work for all women and men and mainstreams gender equality in all its activities. In line with this policy, ILO works to increase women’s decent employment opportunities in cooperation with the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR) in Turkey. Based on successful results gained from the previous projects, modules of women’s human rights will be integrated into the vocational training programmes implemented by İŞKUR. In addition, In addition, ILO promotes gender equality in the labour market through workshops and seminars it organizes such as the recent National Conference on Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Turkey.
  • IOM, as it enters its 23rd year of operations in Turkey, continues efforts to uphold the human rights and dignity of migrant women and children.  Key areas IOM is engaged with include advocating for gender sensitive migration policies, combating human trafficking, and policy oriented research on the gender implications of migration.
  • UNDP, through women coalition established by the women councils has contributed to the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Committee in the Parliament.
  • UNDP and the UN Women’s Joint Programme on Fostering and Enabling Environment for Gender Equality in Turkey, aims to strengthen an enabling institutional environment for gender equality in Turkey.
  • UNDP, UN Women and Sabancı University have launched a new joint programme entitled United Nations Joint Programme to Promote the Human Rights of Women (UNJP) with financial support of the Sabancı Foundation.
  • In Turkey’s southeast Anatolia region, only 3% of women are engaged in paid labour. Within the scope of a project titled, Innovations for Women’s Empowerment in the GAP Region, UNDP and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) are supporting hundreds of women to become fashion entrepreneurs, through forming and owning their own cooperative.
  • UNFPA advocates for better responses to gender-based violence through improved policies and protection systems. Capacity building activities and trainings for service providers and government officials have been conducted all over the country for the last eleven years. UNFPA also increases involvement of young people in promoting gender equality and combating gender based violence.
  • UNHCR provides training for civil society, NGO staff, host-country border guards, police, military units and others who come into contact with refugees. UNHCR works with the Ministry of the Interior, other governmental institutions and NGOs to build the capacity of the national reception and Refugee Status Determination (RSD) system.
  • UNHCR also supports the Government of Turkey to ensure that all Syrian refugees (half of whom are women), either they live in the camps or outside the camps in Turkey, receive protection.
  • UNICEF aims, through its country programmes, to promote the equal rights of women, and girls and to support their full potential in the political, social and economic development of their communities.
  • UNICEF is supporting gender-sensitive procedures and measures, through the improvement of the child justice and protection systems.
  • UNICEF’s support for preschool education is aiming to increase the labour force participation of women through the development of a community-based model of child care and training modules for women to be employed in this context.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) aims at strengthening its capacity to analyse and address the role of gender and sex in all its functional areas.
  • United Nations Joint Programme “Growth with Decent Work for All: National Youth Employment Program and Pilot Implementation in Antalya”, which was implemented by the FAO, ILO, IOM and UNDP in partnership with the Turkish Employment Organization (İŞKUR), aimed to reduce youth unemployment and increase the participation of young women in the labour force. The UN Joint Programme launched at the end of 2009 and was completed at the end of 2012.
  • With the aim of enhancing the international competitiveness of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) and promoting decent work opportunities in the textile and clothing sector of Turkey, ILO, UNDP and UNIDO, in cooperation with İTKİB (İstanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters Association), implemented a Joint Programme on “Harnessing Sustainable Linkages for the SMEs in Turkey’s Textile Sector”.
  • A second leg of the UN Joint Programme on Women Friendly Cities is jointly managed by the UNDP, UNFPA, SIDA and Ministry of Interior and aims to promote an enabling environment for women-friendly communities by means of mainstreaming gender into the planning process of local authorities through local dialogue with women NGOs, grassroots organizations and governmental institutions at national and local levels.

We can establish true gender equality

During the last 10 years and despite the recent global financial and economic crises, Turkey has made internationally applauded economic progress.  However, to make it sustainble, the full potential of women has to be mobilised, their access to the labour market should be encouraged, more women should be included in decision making processes, women's participation in political life should increase, and maybe most importantly, pervasive violence against women should be eliminated. 

Turkey has all the ingredients that require success in this endeavor: a determined government, a strong private sector, effective NGOs and a vibrant media. The UN Turkey will continue to cooperate with all parties involved to increase awareness of women’s issues in Turkey.

It is time to keep our promise and eliminate the global scourge of violence against women.



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