Women are being rncouraged to local politics

01 Oct 2008


On 9 September 2008, a project was launched in Ankara with broad participation from political parties, women parliamentarians, civil society organizations, academicians, media representatives and well-known international experts and activists.

New Horizons -  It was the launch of the project “Women in Local Politics and Decision Making” of UNDP, funded by the Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency (SIDA). The project aims at increasing the number of women elected for the upcoming local elections in Turkey previewed for the end of March 2009.

The project is a joint effort with a Swedish NGO, Kvinnoforum (Women’s Forum) and involves capacity building activities for relevant stakeholders, including the present and potential women candidates, male and female representatives of local institutional structures that are crucial for increased women participation in local politics and decision-making processes. The project activities will be carried out in five selected provinces; Adana, Eskisehir, İzmir, Trabzon, and Van. The project will promote the engagement and leadership of women towards the upcoming local elections by giving particular importance to young women’s participation, as well as holding media awareness raising campaigns during the whole pre-electoral process at local and national level.

The roundtable discussion and targeted workshops organised during the launch brought together for the first time, different stakeholders, both men and women, to discuss challenges and lessons learned on how women can be supported to participate in politics. Participants reaffirmed the common responsibility of both men and women in increasing the number of women in local politics, taking as the basis the current low ratio of women in local politics where only 0,6% are mayors (18 out of 3225), 1,81% are members of the provincial councils (58 out of 3208) and 2,42% are members of the municipal councils (834 out of 34.477). They all agreed that important challenges still remain for women in Turkey at the local level.

High emphasis was made on the responsibility of media as the key opinion maker and where the participants would like to see media representatives as “Goodwill Ambassadors” of the cause of women’s equal participation in politics. Speaking at the launch UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ulrika Richardson-Golinski stated that participating in politics is a human right and should therefore be promoted and protected by governments as well as claimed by all citizens (please click here to read Ulrika Richardson-Golinski's speech).

The 2006 Women in Politics public perception survey, conducted by the Konsensus Research and Consultancy, presented during the event showed that 82% of the population in Turkey “wants to see more women in politics”. As for the primary reason behind women’s under representation in politics  77% said that “women are not given a chance”.  The women “muhktars” were mentioned as successful examples of local level women leaders, who could be elected if there were no political party barriers to get into the electoral list. This limitation was highlighted during the discussions as an important impediment for women’s participation in local politics.

Moreover, the results of a recent survey, which had collected responses from 20% of the intended recipients, were shared with women parliamentarians present at the event. The survey, which had been prepared by UNDP Turkey, aimed at determining the women parliamentarians' views on how to enhance women's involvement in local politics in Turkey. Based on the outcomes of the survey, one of the reasons for the very low representation of women in local politics is the underestimated role of women for local administration. The emphasis of the discussions at the project launch was "women can also bring votes and get elected for local administrations and can even bring better services for the society".

Among the participants were two experts from UNDP’s Regional Bureau as well. In order to contribute to Turkey’s efforts towards increasing women’s participation in politics, these experts are preparing a regional report on women and governance. The Report entitled “Participation in Political Processes and Women’s Leadership” has selected Turkey among six countries in the region for analysing the trends, sharing best practices and proposing solutions for increasing women’s participation in politics. This was also discussed during the roundtable discussion in which experiences, challenges and threats for promoting women’s participation in politics in Turkey were exchanged. The report and the sharing of best practices will be presented during an international conference in Istanbul in December 2008, with participants from all over the world.

As referred to in the Millennium Development Goals Report of 2005, the Government of Turkey sets the target for women’s representation as 17 percent in parliament by 2015. Even though Turkey’s recent advancement in women’s participation in politics with the 2007 General Elections, the increase from 4.4% to 9.1%, is far from the target, it is still a positive incentive to move towards equality between men and women.

To read UNDP Turkey Resident Representative Mahmood Ayub's speech, please click here.
To view powerpoint presentation on "Turkey's Perspective on Women's Involvement in Politics", please click here.
To view powerpoint presentation on "Needs Assessment on women's Participation in Local Politics by Women Parliamentarians in Turkey", please click here.
To view powerpoint presentation on "LA-21 Womens' Councils and National Youth Parliament", please click here.