Equality for women is progress for all

08 March 2014
Kadın erkek eşitliği topyekûn kalkınmanın temeli

Ankara, 8 March 2014 (UN Turkey) - As we approach 2015 deadline to meet internationally set goals to eliminate poverty, hunger, discrimination, diseases and other ills that hamper human development; achievement of gender equality still continues to remain a major global challenge confronting the humanity. However, it is no longer acceptable to live in a world where young girls are taken out of school and forced into early marriage, where women’s employment opportunities are limited, where women are seriously underrepresented in decision making processes and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality. 

Equality for women and girls is not only one of the most important human rights but also indispensable part of sustainable social and economic development. And, to secure a sound and sustainable economic development, nations should empower and educate women and girls. 

To this end, the theme of this year’s March 8 International Women’s Day is “Equality for women is progress for all”.

Global figures testify that we must act fast and collectively at a time the international community is setting up post-2015 sustainable development goals to create the world we want.

Statistics confirm that gender inequality is a global epidemic

- It is estimated that 60 per cent of the approximately one billion chronically hungry people are women.

- Women only hold the 21.4 per cent of the world parliamentary seats.

- Three out of 10 women globally report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner.

- Despite progress in some countries, still 800 women die every day globally from preventable causes during birth or pregnancy.

- Despite increase in the enrollment of girls in school globally, 61 per cent of the 123 million youth who lack basic reading and writing skills are women.

- Globally, around 1 in 3 young women aged 20 to 24 -- approximately 70 million -- were married before the age of 18. Despite a decline in the overall proportion of child, if present trends continue, the number of girls who will marry by their 18th birthday will climb towards 150 million in the next decade.

- There is a gender gap in wage differences, where women earn 17 per cent to 35 per cent less than men for doing the same work.

- Women perform 66 per cent of the world’s work, produce 50 per cent of the food, but earn 10 per cent of the income and own 1 per cent of the property. 

- 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.

Turkey took important steps for gender equality however; there are areas which still require improvement

-According to UNDP 2012 Gender Inequality Index Rank reflecting gender disparities in women’s political participation, reproductive health, education and labor force participation, Turkey ranks 68th out of 187 countries.

-According to Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) latest data on Women in National Parliaments, Turkey ranks as 92 out of 188 countries, with having only 79 women members of the Parliament out of 548 members (14.4 per cent)

- Women’s participation to local politics is quite low in Turkey. As a result of the 2009 local elections, only 0.9 per cent of mayors; 4.21 per cent of members of Municipality Council and; 3.25 percent of members of City Council are women. 

- According to the latest 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. 

- Compared to labour force participation rates for men that was 71.1 per cent as of November 2013 (the latest available data), an estimate of only 30.4 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. 

- The employment rate of women in the same year was 26.6 per cent meaning that approximately only one woman in four is employed.

- In Turkey, women are also more likely than men to have low-paid, unsecured, low-status and vulnerable jobs. 

- According to the latest nation-wide data available two out of five women in Turkey is a victim of violence during her lifetime.

- Honor killings are serious crimes targeting mainly women.

- One out of three brides is a child bride.

United Nations system in Turkey works with the government, NGOs and the media to make gender equality a reality for all

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. 

ILO runs a project entitled “More and Better Jobs for Women: Women’s Empowerment through Decent Work in Turkey” jointly with the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR) with the financial contribution of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Turkey’s first “National Action Plan on Women’s Employment and Gender Equality” will also be prepared within the framework of the project. 

IOM continues its efforts within the framework of the new law “Foreigners and International Protection” strives to protect the human rights and dignity of migrant women and children with a special focus on migrants in crisis. 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’s Local Agenda 21 (LA-21) Programme has been implemented since 1997. The Women Councils, established in the scope of LA 21 Program, set the ground for the visibility of the women as the stakeholders of the communities. The women coalition established by the women councils has contributed to the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Committee in the Parliament. In the scope of the Project of Innovations for Women’s Empowerment in the GAP Region, in Turkey’s southeast Anatolia region, where only 3 per cent of women are engaged in paid labour, 1012 women have been trained in business skills, such as sales and marketing, and in technical skills such as design, cutting and sewing. The project is run jointly by UNDP, GAP Regional Development Administration and SIDA.

UNFPA combats gender based violence and promotes gender equality through media campaigns. UNFPA conducted several researches such as honour killings, incest, GBV and gender equality perception of school children. Results of those research studies attracted the attention of politicians, media and service providers.

UNFPA also conducts capacity building activities to fight against violence against women. In addition, UNFPA runs "Pomegranate Arils Project" which aims at empowerment and development of mentoring mechanism for young women raised in the orphanages and building the capacity of the General Directorate of Child Services staff on development of mentoring mechanism.

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.

With regard to the Syria Emergency, UNHCR works in close cooperation with the Turkish authorities since the onset of the conflict. UNHCR supports Turkey’s response by providing technical and material support. UNHCR supported programs and vocational trainings aiming to empower women and girls.

UNIC integrates gender issues into its media and educational outreach activities.

UNICEF gives special focus on girls as a group of children and young people who are most likely to be disadvantaged. The existing near-parity between girls and boys in enrolment in primary education is partly a consequence of the UNICEF-supported girls’ education campaign conducted under previous country programmes. Current work on out-of-school-children, including the secondary level, continues to emphasise equality for girls as well as disadvantaged groups. 

UNIDO, as part of a project related to the National Implementation Plan (NIP) for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Turkey, conducted sectorial analysis of exposure to POPS in Turkey according to gender.

UN Women’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia is in the process of opening in Istanbul. The Regional Office will oversee the work that UN Women is doing to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights in Central Asia, the Caucuses and Balkans. As part of its activities in Turkey, UN Women has been working on strengthening institutional capacity of the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey for mainstreaming gender into legislative processes. Accordingly, UN Women has been reviewing the existing framework legislation from gender perspective. In addition, UN Women has been conducting gender responsive budgeting (GRB) trainings and has prepared GRB Manuals so that municipalities could analyse, develop and monitor local plans and budgets from a gender perspective.

WFP supports approximately 140,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkish camps and promotes gender equality in its operations and programming. WFP Turkey programme has similar numbers of female and male monitors, as well as beneficiaries sitting on camp management teams. Gender sensitivity guides monitoring activities and information campaigns in the camps where separate meetings are held specifically for female beneficiaries.

UN Agencies also conduct joint programmes (UNJP) for empowerment of women

UN Women and UNDP jointly run UNJP titled “Fostering an Enabling Environment for Gender Equality in Turkey”. Under this joint programme, UN Women aims to strengthen the capacity of the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (EOC) with the partnership of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and financial support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Within this framework, 32 fundamental Turkish legislations are being reviewed from gender perspective. EOC Members together with Secretary General of Grand National Assembly of Turkey took Gender-Sensitive Parliament Need Assessment Workshop and as a follow up of the needs determined in this self-assessment, Advanced Training on Gender Analysis of Legislation took place in order to improve the capacities of reviewing draft bills from gender perspective, with the participation of legislative experts from different committees of TGNA. 

UN Women and UNDP, in cooperation with the Sabancı University, Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Family and Social Policies, Union of Municipalities of Turkey have been carrying out UNJP Promoting the Human Rights of Women, funded by Sabancı Foundation. In line with the program, UN Women has worked to improve capacities of local administrations, women’s civil society organizations and Women’s Studies Units of Universities in 11 provinces to reflect national gender equality commitments complying with the needs of women and men at localities to their local plans and budgets.

UNDP and UNFPA jointly run "Women Friendly Cities" joint project basically focusing on gender equality, women and local dynamics in 12 cities.

What are we to do next?

To globally and locally achieve gender equality international community should facilitate women’s increased participation in decision-making processes, end violence against women, and eliminate the prevalence of negative gender stereotypes. 

It is known that it is not just a gender gap that is blocking progress; it is also a gap between laws and implementation. In this respect, it is not enough to adopt laws and policies; they have to be effectively implemented. There is enough evidence that if countries invest in women, a far reaching social and economic progress and freedom for all, from generation to generation can be created. In the 21st century, the world must and can put an end to discrimination of women and girls. 

Political will and leadership is critical for generating sustained action for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, especially at a time when international community is preparing the post-2015 sustainable development agenda to build the world we want. 

Steps taken by Turkey shows that Turkey has the necessary elements needed to eliminate gender inequality -- 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 enhance gender equality in Turkey. 

Media contacts

Sema Hosta
Chief of Communication
UNICEF in Türkiye
Tel: + 90 312 454 10 10


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