Empowering Women Empowering Humanity

08 March 2015

8 March, Ankara (UN in Turkey) -International Women's Day is a success story of women around the world who fought for equality, justice and peace. It is rooted in the age-old struggle of women to bring about a better world.  But all of the progress achieved to date can be destroyed through violence against women. Unfortunately, sexual and gender-based violence is the most extreme form of the global and systemic inequality experienced by women and girls. It knows no geographic, socio-economic or cultural boundaries. Brutal murder of 20-year old Özgecan Aslan has once again strikingly demonstrated that this violence must end. 

As part of this struggle, in 1995, tens of thousands of participants and activists rushed to Beijing for the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women. The meeting had produced the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is considered as the most progressive step ever for advancing women’s rights. It pictures a world where each woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices, and realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions and to earn equal pay for equal work. Now, 20 years later the commitments from Beijing in 1995 are still relevant and have only partially been fulfilled.
There is still much to do 
Although much has been achieved in the quest for gender equality, there is still much to do globally and in Turkey.  Global figures show that international community should act collectively without delay and with a uniformed stance through joint endeavors.
Several obstacles are still globally hindering empowerment of women thus lagging the development of societies. Only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female as of January 2015, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995. Women continue to participate in labour markets on an unequal basis with men. Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). More than one in three—or some 250 million—were married before 15. Forced displacement exacerbates the risks that women and girls face. Gender-based discrimination, trafficking in women and girls, integration difficulties, under-representation in politics, unequal access to and control over resources, unequal employment strategies, and lack of access to basic services, are the key factors behind the unequal status of migrant women.
Despite significant steps forward, Turkey still needs to enhance empowerment of women
According to the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index in 2014, Turkey ranks 125th among 142 countries; the country ranks 132nd for women’s economic participation and opportunity and 113rd for political empowerment. This puts Turkey among the countries with the high rate of gender inequality in the Europe-Central Asia Region. According to Gender Inequality Index (GII), reflecting gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation, Turkey ranks 69th out of 149 countries. 
According to the latest Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Progress report of 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.
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 mostly as unpaid labor force and by the services sector in urban areas.
Compared to labour force participation rates for men that was 71.5 per cent in 2013 (the latest available data), an estimate of only 30.8 per cent of women were in the labour force. This falls far behind the global average rate of 50.3 per cent as well as the Developed Economies’ and European Union’s average rate of 52.9 per cent.
Empowerment of women is an integral part of the UN projects and programs in Turkey. Below are some of the main activities of UN Agencies in Turkey in gender issues 
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. The UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia has been established in İstanbul and covers Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia and the Caucuses.
UN Women chairs the UN Country Team Gender Thematic Group (GTG) and tries to trigger a gender responsive and relevant UN system that promotes policies, programmes, accountability mechanism and operations for the protection of human rights and equitable development for women, men, girls and boys.
UN Women carries out Gender Responsive Budgeting Project as a component of UNJP for Promoting the Human Rights of Women funded by Sabancı Foundation that aims inclusion of gender equality perspective into public planning and budgeting processes. For this aim, UN Women conducts capacity development activities for municipality administrators and civil society organizations.
UN Women has also launched its global HeForShe campaign in Turkey in partnership with Koç Holding. HeForShe is a global solidarity campaign to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential.
In the lead up to the parliamentary elections in June, UN Women in partnership with the Interparliamentary Union (IPU), starts an important project funded by SIDA to advance gender equality and women’s leadership and participation in politics in Turkey.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works for capacity development support to rural women on socio-economic and gender aspects of sustainable rural development. FAO also strengthens National Capacities for production and analysis of sex-disaggregated data through the implementation of the FAO Gender and Agriculture Framework.
International Labour Organization (ILO), in addition to other projects and initiatives on child labour; Syrian refugee crisis; occupational safety and health; social dialogue and green jobs, runs “More and Better Jobs for Women” project with the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR) to develop Turkey’s first National Action Plan on women’s employment which will be prepared as part of it. The outcome of the project will enable women to have better access to decent work.
International Organization for Migration (IOM) Turkey has been implementing several projects since 2004 in order to strengthen the capacities of its partners in government and civil society, and sets operational standards to achieve sustainable results that will provide protection and empower trafficked women and girls.  IOM is currently implementing a new project to prevent human trafficking and provide human rights-based protection to trafficked persons at all forms of human trafficking.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Turkey partners with different counterparts, including gender equality machinery, line ministries, Turkish Armed Staff, women movement, Bar Associations and UN agencies to promote gender equality. One of those projects isInnovations for Women’s Empowerment in the GAP Region, in Turkey’s Southeast Anatolia region, where only 3 percent of women are engaged in paid labour, UNDP, GAP Regional Development Administration and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) are supporting hundreds of women to become fashion entrepreneurs, forming and owning their own cooperative.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Turkey has been mainly working on combating Violence against Women. In that sense, advocacy campaigns on combating violence against women and several capacity building activities have taken place for the service providers and NGO members. Police officers, health care providers, family judges and public prosecutors, religious leaders, Turkish Armed Forces staff and Ministry of Family and Social Policies staff have been trained on gender equality and combating violence against women. UNFPA leads the UN Joint Programme on Gender Mainstreaming at Local Level, titled Women Friendly Cities, which aims at improving the lives of women and girls. Being implemented since 2006 and reaching out to 12 Turkish provinces, the Joint Programme is by far the most influential local gender equality initiative in Turkey.
United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) works with the UN agencies, academia, international organizations and NGOs to promote gender equality.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Turkey gives priority to mainstream and highlight gender awareness and gender equality in all its work. It aims to take account of the different needs of girls and boys in all of its planning, research, advocacy, advice and communications, and in all kinds of training and capacity building activities. It also ensures equal representation of the sexes in its activities to promote the participation and engagement of children and young people.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP) in Turkey has a significant gender perspective to promote development and job creation for women in Turkey. The project has underpinned the recruitment of female trainers, mentors and judges as well as female innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups.Results of a recent UNIDO study indicate that 84 percent of the respondents have prioritized increasing women participation and engagement in all dimensions of social and economic life. Women’s employment was considered as the biggest determinant in sustained growth according to the discussions.
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Turkey assists refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey.As of end of January 2015, in Turkey, there are over 1.6 million Syrian refugees, and over 200.000 persons of concern to UNHCR, out of whom women represent the half. UNHCR works to promote gender equality and ensure equal access to protection and assistance and build upon women’s resilience and strength to support their empowerment and strengthen their protection, and promotes their full participation in all decisions affecting their lives.
World Food Programme (WFP)has looked to further incorporate gender-sensitivity and protection issues in its programming and analysis of the e-Food Card Programme at the refugee camps in Turkey. Thus, WFP ensures that there are always female-only lines during distributions of new cards and other materials. With regard to monitoring and evaluation, WFP ensures that female beneficiaries and female headed-households are equally represented in all monitoring activities.
World Health Organization (WHO) works to ensure that the impact of gender inequalities in women’s health is addressed in national health policies and programmes. It works closely with the health sector to strengthen their capacity in preventing and dealing with gender based violence through clear guidelines and protocols for health care providers. The WHO Regional Office for Europe is currently working on a report on Inequalities in women’s health in the WHO European Region: the impact of socioeconomic determinants and gender, which will cover 53 Member States.
In addition to the several projects individually run by UN Agencies, significant work has been based on joint projects with the participation of UN system in Turkey for the empowerment of women and girls in Turkey and create sustainability and awareness of women’s social and economic needs. In line with that and through several projects throughout the years, including “Women Friendly Cities”, “More and Better Jobs for Women”, “Promoting the Human Rights of Women” and many others, the UN System in Turkey cooperates with the Government, media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the empowerment of women.
At a time when the international community is geared to set the sustainable development goals to cover the period until 2030, the UN system in Turkey is determined to join forces to make gender issues an integral part of the post 2015 agenda.
In fact the path to integrate gender equality in the new global agenda is straightforward: Laws must be accompanied by resource allocations, institutional regulations and guidelines and systematic training for officials who will monitor and enforce them. To end violence against women public perceptions should be changed and barriers of culture and tradition should be eliminated to find non-violent ways to resolve conflicts in personal and public life.
On this International Women’s Day we must take the efforts to end violence against women seriously, and demonstrate our resolve to achieve an equal and just future for all as pledged in the Beijing Declaration

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