Conference on women and governance

01 Jan 2009


The International Conference on “Women and Democratic Governance” jointly organized by the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) was held between 1-3 December in İstanbul.

New Horizons - Members of the parliaments, political parties, representatives of non-governmental organizations, academicians and many  researchers from all around the world, particularly from Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) participated in the conference. They shared their own experiences and knowledge as well as successful practices and strategies on empowering women to increase their participation in politics. 

The opening ceremony of the conference included speeches of  the Vice President of TİKA, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, the Prime Ministry Deputy Director General on the Status and Problems of Women and the Director of UNDP Gender Team.

Vice President of TİKA Mustafa Şahin outlined the importance of this conference on women and governance as it was held before the upcoming local elections in Turkey and stated that TİKA, which has gradually increased the effectiveness of its development aid to other developing countries, aims to make sure that the experiences in the region are shared in the conference.

United Nations Resident Coordinator Mahmood Ayub said that gender equality is one of the most important issues in the countries that want to be more democratic. Pointing out that women in Turkey obtained suffrage rights around 75 years ago with the help of Ataturk, Ayub stated that Turkey made significant progress on law making concerning the status of women, yet more steps are needed as regards women’s participation in economic, social and politcal spheres. Indicating that the ratio of Turkish women members of parliament doubled in the last elections to 9 %, Ayub desired the same success to be repeated in local elections in  March 2009. Ayub also informed that women’s participation in local governments is 2% in Turkey (for full speech please click here).

Deputy Director General on the Status and Problems of Women at the Prime Ministry Leyla Coşkun stated in her speech that women’s empowerment is an important aspect of the modernization during an age when the development indicators are interpreted again. Coşkun pointed out that the desired point is not reached despite the developments aiming gender equality in legislative system and practice. She added that the media has high responsibility in communicating the gender equality correctly (for full speech please click here - Turkish).

Director of UNDP Gender Team Winnie Byanyima stated in her speech that the ratio of women’s participation in politics has increased to 18% with an 8% increase in the last ten years. Indicating that the increase results from the cultural change in political parties and from women’s participation in decision-making processes, Byanyima added that the easiest way of involving women into politics is to make women participate in local governance. Byanyima also said that through the quota allocated for women in local councils in India, more than one million women have started to be presented in village councils (for full speech please click here).

During the conference other academicians and politicians as Mirjana Dokmanovic, Vlidimir Osipov and Marivi Monteserin gave speeches as well.

The Network of East-West Women (NEWW) International Council’s member Mirjana Dokmanovic stated in her talk that as women become more successful in politics, the media’s criticism becomes harsher. She gave the aggressive news about Hilary Clinton during the last presidential election as an example and added that it is important for women to be presented in an accurate way.

The National Institute of the Equality of Opportunity Lawmember, Vladimir Osipov stated in his talk that academicians and NGOs participate in the legislation making, but noted women organizations should also participate in the implementation process of the law to create public awareness.

The Socialist Party member of the Spanish Parliament, Marivi Monteserin stated that the adjustments in the gender equality law will not be sufficient and added that gender equality should be reflected to laws regarding employment, election, education, environment and agriculture.

Jens Wandel, Deputy Director and Regional Center Director gave a presentation on Regional Trends during the conference. In his presentation he talked about the women’s political participation in different years and also gave information on HIV (for full presentation, please click here).

IKNOW politics was introduced by Anita Vandenbeld (for full presentation, please click here).


During the conference thematic sessions were held on the mechanisms to promote women’s political participation, women’s participation in policy making, enabling environment for women’s political participation and gender equality law.

Session I: Mechanisms to promote women’s political participation

During the session UNDP was recommended to support a regional strategy as empowering women in political parties to bring more women into political positions/parliaments, ensuring that women are well placed on party lists, forming coalitions of women working on gender issues across party lines, working closely with women’s movements and NGOS, maintaining continuity of women in parliaments to build a consistent gender equality agenda. UNDP was also suggested to promote the use of mechanisms such as quotas throughout the EE and CIS region and to provide the human and financial resources for the education of the public and government to support women in governance by building greater political will for women’s participation in politics.

Session II: Women’s participation in policy making

In this session, firstly it was pointed out that support is needed for further strengthening of governments and CSO capacities to integrate gender into policies, strategies, laws and regulations on all governing levels in accordance with international frameworks. (CEDAW, Beijing Platform, MDGs) Secondly, it was stated that weak institutional gender mechanisms that lack resources, experts and development, implementation and together with gender policies should be supported. Thirdly, it was noted that the role of women’s organizations that monitor and implement gender policies, should be strengthened.

During this session UNDP was recommended to incorporate gender into all its programs of democratic governance and to advocate that gender mainstreaming experiences of UNDP present entry points for the governments and support integration of existing national gender legislation, policies, and strategies on gender equality and integrate it into programs and project activities and field interventions.

Also the international organizations supporting countries in the transitional  processes and in EU accession processes were recommended to ensure high visibility of gender equality concept requirements towards Governments  (such as Acquis Comminautaire, EU Directives ect) 

Session III : Enabling environment for women’s political participation

In this session, it was stated that global and regional policies are required for action, structured  discussion on gender issiues should continue, media campaings are needed for better presentation of women and that electoral issues and campaigns should be consolidated for equal presentation of women.

Session IV: Gender equality law

During this session some recommendations were made on the preperation, content, implementation of the Gender Equality Law. It was stated that during the preperation of the law, it should be worked with academia, civil society and private sector,  and should be benefited from the international models. The content of the law was advised to be general to serve as reference and include modification of other laws.


On the last day of the conference The United Nations Development Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) report on Progress of the World’s Women 2008/2009: Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability was launched. The report, which is the flagship publication of  UNIFEM, shows that accountability to women begins with increasing the number of women in decision making positions. According to the report, women must be included in oversight processes and advancing women’s rights must be a key standard. It says that implementation still has a long way to go as the indicators show; women are outnumbered 4 to 1 in legislatures around the world, 60% of the family workers are women but they earn 17%less than men.

UNIFEM, Bratislava Programme Specialist, Erika Kvapilova, in her presentation of the Report pointed out that gender gaps are symptomatic of an accountability crisis and governments and multilateral organizations have a responsibility to do a better job of answering to women. Expert panelists Julie Ballington from the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Gender Partnership Programme (Geneva), and Richard Matland, Professor of Political Science at the Loyola University Chicago, in their reflections on the Report stressed that women change the way politics is done and bring different priorities to the political agenda. The report states that good governance needs women and women need good governance as women have a different perspective on accountability, but experience accountability failures. It says that corruption is one of the failures women experience. The Report also notes that women are extremely vulnerable to shifting patterns in global markets due to lack of measures that protect them (for full report, please click here).