Women Empowerment and Gender Equality

Making gender equality a reality is a core commitment of UNDP. As a crosscutting issue, gender must be addressed in everything the organization does. Because equality between women and men is just, fair and right. It is a worthy goal in and of itself, one that lies at the heart of human development and human rights. And because gender inequality is an obstacle to progress, a roadblock on the path of human development. When development is not "en-gendered" it is "endangered".

Within this perspective, democratic governance provides citizens with access to information but more importantly access for all decision–making platforms and power to influence public choices. Access for all means not only for a privileged few but also those who are from different reasons excluded, i.e. vulnerable women who are frequently represent the most vulnerable of the vulnerable groups.

In the 1995 World Conference on Women, 189 governments committed to “ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making.” To fulfill this strategic objective, governments also pledged to establish the goal of “gender balance in governmental bodies and committees as well as in public administrative entities and in the judiciary.” Statistical data reveal that in most countries of the world these commitments are still not translated into reality, neither at a national nor at local levels.

Accountability is the key feature of democratic governance that ensures that decision-makers (power holders) adhere to publicly agreed goals and standards. From a gender perspective, accountability requires that decisions are equally assessed by and impacting women and men. But this is not enough. It also requires relevant institutional settings and environment for which gender equality is a standard against which performance of decision makers can be monitored and evaluated. It also demands strong normative foundations, including national laws and global human rights frameworks such as CEDAW.

The 2010 MDG Progress report of Turkey shows that Turkey 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. The MDG Progress Report highlights the existing structural inequalities; especially those related to geographical and social gender disparities as remaining challenges for the achievement of MDGs. The primary gaps are found in the participation of women in decision making and in labour force: The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 9.1% (with only 50 seats held by women in the 550-member parliament) and that of local government is less than 2%. Women’s participation in labour force is only at around 25%, which put Turkey below all other OECD members and many developing countries worldwide. According to Gender Inequality Index (GII), this reveals gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation, Turkey ranks 77th out of 138 countries.

In this regard, there are two pronged approach of gender equality and women empowerment in Turkey: i) capacity development, ii) pro-poor and pro-women’s policy advice and support to stand-alone operational interventions for gender equality in collaboration with UN Women.

Specifically, UNDP Turkey extends its intervention in the field of gender equality and women empowerment can be summarized the following:

- Promote enabling environment for greater accountability to women (and men) by strengthening the national gender equality machinery and by strengthening the institutional capacities of the structures ensure gender is mainstreamed in legislation and policymaking processes, subsequently translated into full-fledged implementation, regularly monitored, evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted

- Promotion of a Gender-sensitive Parliament

UNDP Turkey and gender in development

What is the situation?

Turkey is an Upper Middle Income Country (MIC), with a strong economic growth over the past years, amounting to 10,666 $ GDP per capita in 2012. In 2004 Turkey entered into the EU accession process with consequent demands for reforms towards meeting EU aquis communitaire, including reforms on human rights, equality and a democratic judiciary. Despite the numerous advancements, particularly in the Constitution, the Criminal Code, the Civil Code and the Labour Act, the implementation and de facto realization of these rights, is still a challenge, which is also reflected in the basic development indicators for women, that are far behind to comparable MICs and much further behind the EU member states. Currently, according to the United Nations data on Human Development Indicators , Turkey has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.366, ranking 68th out of 148 countries in 2012. With regards to participation to governance, only 14.2 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women in Turkey. Also, in means of education level, 26.7 percent of adult women have reached a secondary or higher level of education compared to 42.4 percent of their male counterparts in 2012.

An important progress in advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality in 2008 was the National Action Plan on Gender Equality covering the period of 2008-2013. The National Action Plan on Gender Equality is prepared with a scope of covering the sub-topics, “Women and Health”, “Women and Power and Decision-Making Processes,” “Women and Environment”, "Women’s Human Rights”, “Girl Children”, and “Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women” which are among the critical areas determined in the Beijing Action Platform.   The aim of The Action Plan is to set targets for ministries and national agencies to promote gender equality in the above defined areas and to develop government policies addressing the gender issues.

In February 2009, the Law on the Equal Opportunities Commission for Women and Men, Law no 5840, was adopted in the national parliament. Consequently, in March 2009, an Equal Opportunities Commission in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, with unanimous vote of parliamentarians from different political parties, was established. This Commission is in charge of promoting gender equality in the legislation making and examining complaints on violation of equality between women and men at all levels of public life. The Commission is aimed to bring an institutional dimension to gender equality in Turkey, starting from the government level. The establishment of Equal Opportunities Commission for Women and Men is a great milestone to eliminate gender-based discrimination in Turkey as social norms and rules still inhibit the promotion of gender equality between men and women.

According to the Turkish Statistics Institute and UN Reports, the situation in Turkey is as following:





Life Expectancy (at Birth) in years




School Life Expectancy in years




Adult Economic Activity Rate




Unemployment rate




Labor force participation rate




Labor participation rate among Youth (aged b/w 15-24)




Adult Literacy Ratio




Non-agricultural unemployment rate




Maternal Mortality (per 100,000 live births)




Fertility Rate (per 1000 live births)




Ratio of literate women to men (15-24 age group) 




Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sectors




Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament




Women mayors




Women members of provincial councils




Women members of municipal councils





Gender Related Development Index (GDI) Value

GDI Rank


79th out of 157



Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) Value

GEM Rank


101st out of 109



Ratio of girls to boys in Primary education




Ratio of girls to boys in Secondary education




Ratio of girls to boys in Tertiary Education





Some crucial data on women’s status and empowerment in Turkey include:

• 57.2 % of women are working in the agriculture sector and 50 % of the women working in agriculture are part of family work force without wage;

• One out of every three women is a victim of violence;

• 63 % of women between the ages of 15 and 19 approve violence against women;

• The share of women legislators, senior officials and managers in workforce is 10%;

Although domestic violence against women has been getting increasing attention in Turkey, official national data on the magnitude and nature of the problem was only available when, for the first time, The National Research on Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey is launched by the General Directorate of Women’s affairs and the EC Delegation in Turkey in January 2009. The National Research on Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey aims to disseminate detailed information on the prevalence of domestic violence, its types, its causes and consequences for the whole population, both men and women and for the country. Major findings from the research shows that violence by husbands is the most common form of violence in women’s lives and the number is 4 out of 10. Moreover, in 2002, 66 women, in 2003, 83 women, in 2004, 164 women, in 2005, 317 women, in 2006, 663 women, in 2007, 1011 women, in 2008, 806 women and in the first seven months of 2009, 953 women were murdered. Also, nationwide, the proportion of married women who reported to have experienced physical violence is 39 percent, whereas, the proportion of women, who experienced either sexual or physical violence, or both, is 42 percent. 


What is UNDP doing to promote gender in development in Turkey?

UNDP Turkey Country Programme Document (CPD) takes gender as a cross cutting issue that should be mainstreamed in all programmatic areas of interventions. As a result of UNDP’s work towards the promotion of gender equality in Turkey, a strong link among UNDP, the Turkish Government, NGOs, academia, and beneficiaries is established.

As the main activities undertaken between 2008-2013, we can highlight the continuous support for the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship in the GAP Region as well as the advocacy for the promotion of women’s participation in politics and decision making in Turkey. Moreover, the awareness building and the capacity development activities for women candidates in participating to local elections and local media are conducted in 14 provinces including the network promotion among women’s movement through the creation of women politicians’ platform regardless of party lines.

On the field of women’s economic empowerment, UNDP works with both men and women for ensuring gender equality in private sector and business-life. Building on the results of the first South East Anatolia initiative, in 2013 the second phase of the Innovations on Women’s Empowerment Project has been initiated with the aim of increasing individual productive and social capacities and enterprise level management skills of women of Southeast Anatolia in order to empower women within their communities and expanding women’s income through entrepreneurship and increased employment opportunities.

UNDP, further on, initiated the Project on Fostering an Enabling Environment for Gender Equality in Turkey. The aim of the Project is to generate greater accountability to women (and men) by strengthening the national gender equality machinery, including the Equal Opportunities Commission fostered and by strengthening the institutional capacities of the structures ensure gender is mainstreamed in legislation and policymaking processes, subsequently translated into full-fledged implementation, regularly monitored, evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted.

In 2011 UNDP, together with UNFPA, initiated the UN Joint Programme on Promoting Gender Equality at the Local Level whose aim is to foster increased 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, as well as to promote gender mainstreaming at the neighborhood level through a structured neighborhood mobilization model which allows engagement of unorganized local women into planning processes in pilot province/neighborhoods.

In 2012, UNDP has taken on the implementation of the Un Joint Programme, together with UN Women and Sabancı Foundation, for promoting the human rights of women. The UNJP essentially aims to accelerate the implementation of gender equality commitments at the local level and contribute to the development of sustainable capacities to promote, protect and exercise women’s rights and gender equality in various areas of life. The Joint Program is implemented in 10 provinces. These provinces are Aydın, Çanakkale, Edirne, Eskişehir, Erzincan, Kahramanmaraş, Kastamonu, Kayseri, Kocaeli and Ordu through activities on gender responsive budgeting and vocational trainings on gender equality as well as a Grant Programme which provides grants to Women CSOs, Universities that have gender studies units or local administrations to improve their capacities.

Between 2009-2013, key achievements in terms of Institutional Arrangements are noted as below:

• A Gender Mainstreaming Strategy, involving all teams (i.e. Sustainable Development, Democratic Governance, Poverty Reduction and Operations and Finance), has been set and discussed in a set of workshops and endorsed by the UNDP. Consequently a Gender Team is established as a mechanism accountable for the promotion of gender equality and the follow up of the implementation of the Gender Mainstreaming Strategy.

• The workshop conducted with EC Delegation

• The Gender in Atlas Report

• The establishment of a library (physical and on-line) for information sharing, dissemination of toolkits and other materials on Gender.

•  In 2013, the UNDP Turkey Country Office has initiated the Gender Equality Seal Process which is a corporate certification that recognizes good performance of UNDP Country Offices, Regional Service Centers and Regional Bureaus in delivering transformational gender equality results as well as generating incentives for solid work on gender equality, and empowers managers and Country Offices to advance practices on gender equality to better support countries’ gender equality goals. The Process addresses gender-related functioning of the COs, i.e. promotions, recognition, recruitments and mainstreaming gender to all stages of programming and operations, i.e. from planning to M&E and helps CO’s to establish baselines, fine-tune strategies, identify gaps and challenges, document innovations and evaluate related impacts on gender equality.