Bridging the Divide: Female Legislators Look at the Turkish Experience

News | June 13, 2013

EWI brings together U.S. legislators and international parliamentarians in Ankara for discussions on women empowerment in government.

As part of their “Women, Peace and Security” partnership, EWI’s Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention and Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) brought together U.S. state legislators and international parliamentarians in Ankara on May 28-30. The purpose of this meeting was to help participants learn from the experiences of Turkish women leaders, and explore ways in which women leaders can better support one another globally. Women in Turkey have successfully gained a place at the highest levels of government.

"We struggle in a different way, but we struggle with the same issues" responded one of the U.S. legislators upon hearing accounts of the difficulties women have in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of the positive outcomes of this meeting was that members of the U.S. delegation committed to take up the issue of the security needs of women with their respective members in Congress.

Ten U.S. state legislators and six participants hailing from Afghanistan, Morocco, Pakistan and Tunisia gathered for a series of dialogues with Deputy Minister for Family and Social Policy Dr. Aşkın Asan as well as with Turkish parliamentary committees. The aim of the partnership is to create better understanding between these female legislators, to forge personal ties and to educate them on various models and tools available to increase the role each of these women can play in their respective security debates.

The delegation was briefed on the developments in Morocco, which largely escaped the massive demonstrations that the MENA region experienced throughout the Arab Awakening. All eyes are now on Tunisia, which will be voting on its new constitution in a few weeks. The outcome of this process will be pivotal in determining the success of the regional revolution.

In debating the barriers to women reaching the higher levels of policy making, the delegation quizzed Deputy Minister Asan. Particularly, they wanted to know what steps the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is taking to promote the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, adopted in 2000. The resolution requires United Nations member states to incorporate women into peace processes and negotiations.

A conference held in Istanbul two years ago entitled “Change in Muslim Societies and the Role of Women” produced an agreement on the establishment of a gender-equality institute, but unfortunately the rhetorical support for the creation of this institute has not been followed up by concrete steps. The partnership will seek to further press governments on the implementation of this agreement and will seek to establish a relationship with the Parliamentary Union of the OIC member States (PUIC) to further engage women in the vital debates on conflict prevention, peace and security.

Click here to read a write-up by one of the event's participants, in the Georgia Senate Press