Spanning both Europe and Asia, Turkey is home to nearly 83 million people. It hosts 4 million persons under international and temporary protection, the world’s largest number of refugees. Turkey is a member of the UN, NATO, OECD, G-20, and OIC, and a candidate country for EU accession. In 1934, Turkish women were among the first in Europe to achieve the right to vote and run for elected office. The country has a strong women’s movement and women’s human rights activists have mobilized nationwide campaigns against violence against women and contributed to the adoption of gender equality legislation.

Turkey became party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985 and ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2002. It was the first country to sign (2011) and ratify (2012) the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). On March 20, 2021, Turkey announced that it is withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention. UN Women’s statement on the withdrawal is available here.

Turkey’s 11th National Development Plan 2019-2023 contains goals and measures to empower women, prevent discrimination against them, and ensure that women have equal access to the rights, opportunities and facilities available to men. Other policy documents adopted include the National Strategy and Action Plan on Women’s Empowerment (2018-2023), the National Action Plan on Combating Violence and Women (2016 -2020) and the National Action Plan on Women’s Employment (2016-2018).

Despite current legislation and policies, gender inequalities persist in many areas. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021,Turkey ranks 133rd among 156 countries in gender equality, 101st in educational attainment for women, 114th in their political empowerment, 140th in economic participation and opportunity, and 105th in health and survival.

According to recent data on participation in labour markets and political and economic decision-making in Turkey:

  • Women’s labour force participation rate is 35 per cent;
  • Women occupy 22 per cent of company management positions, 18 per cent of board memberships and 11 per cent of senior executive positions;

Only 17 per cent of Parliamentarians are women (101 women total), 3 per cent mayors, and 11 per cent of municipal councillors;
The gender wage gap is 15 per cent.

In 2020, over 3.6 million Syrians were under temporary protection in Turkey, 46 per cent of them women and girls. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection, and the Temporary Protection Regulation provide a strong legal framework for the legal stay, registration, documentation and access to rights and services for foreigners in Turkey.

Despite extensive support provided by the Government of Turkey and partners, Syrian women and girls, including female-headed households, face significant barriers to meet their basic needs, recover from war traumas, and effectively participate in Turkey’s social and economic life, according to the Turkey Country Chapter 2021 – 2022 – Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan.

Based in Ankara, the Turkish capital, the UN Women Turkey Country Office has actively implemented projects since 2012. UN Women Turkey works closely with the Government, civil society organizations, private sector companies and business associations, media, academia, other UN agencies and development partners, and opinion-makers and activists from different sectors to promote gender equality.

In line with the UN Women Global Strategic Plan 2018-2021 and the Strategic Note for Turkey 2019-2022 and the United Nations Development Cooperation Strategy Turkey 2016-2020, UN Women in Turkey has three overarching goals:

  • Women lead, participate in, and benefit equally from governance systems;
  • All women and girls live a life free from all forms of violence;
  • Women and girls contribute to and have greater influence in building sustainable peace and resilience and benefit equally from the prevention of natural disasters and conflicts and humanitarian action.

In particular, UN Women Turkey focuses on initiatives in these areas:

  1. Leadership and political participation
  2. Ending violence against women and girls
  3. Refugee response
  4. Gender-responsive planning and budgeting
  5. Private sector partnerships and male engagement
  6. UN system coordination

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