Women ask for accountability in Turkey

Mar 8, 2016


Canan Ergin wants one simple thing: A decent life in her neighborhood.

She has been volunteering to make this a reality for over three years: identifying the needs of the neighborhood, canvassing with the locals, and conveying the demands to local authorities. 

Canan and her friends organised themselves in a neighborhood of İzmir. One of the primary needs of their community, they observed, was the lack of social venues where women can safely and securely enjoy leisure time.

The parks were littered and full of young people who use drugs. The neighborhood was unsafe, especially for women to go out, not only at night but even during the daytime.

The group managed to work together with the mukhtar to create a nice park. They ensured the park encouraged women to go out of their homes and take part in public life. The park was named after them: ‘Leader Women’s Park’.

Now, Canan says, whenever she passes by the park, she feels empowered. But she says there is more to do.

“I think the municipality should open Schools of Politics where women can develop skills to be more politically engaged, because our lack of participation to decision-making mechanisms affects our ability to engage with the issues of our communities.”

At this point, UNDP supported the leader women in developing a three-month initiative.

As part of the initiative, discussion platforms were created for women in İzmir and in Trabzon about their needs and perceptions on governance, efficient use of public resources and enhanced accountability.

UNDP also provided capacity-building trainings with a focus on gender equality, local governance and accountability. The work also generated recommendations for increasing participation of citizens in local decision‐making processes and effective monitoring of those decisions by citizens.

Leyla Demirkır, who is a grassroots activist from Trabzon, explains:

“How does the municipality use their budget? They build sports centers but for whom? It is usually for men. Perhaps because in the planning, budgeting and implementing periods, there are more men than women. For women to be more involved, we need more transparency from the authorities.”

The initiative brought local administrations together with grassroots women on the discussions of accountability and efficiency. Sezin Üskent, project expert says, this made the authorities realize something:

“Local authorities were always saying they have limited resources and they were trying their best under the existing conditions. Now, they understand that if citizens aren’t involved in decision-making processes; if transparency and accountability aren’t ensured; then citizens can't really see the effort and reasons for drawbacks in the service delivery.”

The municipalities and grassroots women already started to take action to bring about the transformative change together for a decent life in their neighborhoods.

In İzmir, the citizen satisfaction survey conducted during the initiative will be integrated into the service planning of Konak municipality. The City Council started to establish what is called neighborhood committees composed of volunteers, in order to improve participatory decision making processes.

In Trabzon, the City Council will establish a neighborhood based monitoring system. This system will ask for accountability and transparency of services delivered.

The results are evidence of the importance of includingwomen’s experiences in policy-making.

One thing is for sure: the Leader Women are charting the way to a more gender-equal future for not only their community, but also their country.

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