Independent and cutting-edge analysis on Turkey and its neighborhood

TPQ’s 2019 issue focuses on women’s empowerment and progress towards gender equality. A growing body of evidence indicates that higher levels of women’s participation in the economic and political sphere are associated with global GDP growth and a lower propensity for conflict, respectively. Despite this, barriers for women persist—from discrimination in the work place to gender-based violence to exclusion from decision-making bodies and peace processes. The articles in this issue examine how elevating the status of women and girls is not only a human rights issue, but also a means for catalyzing global prosperity, stability, and security. 

The Consul General from Sweden to Istanbul, Therese Hydén, opens with a powerful study of Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy, which since its inception in 2014 by Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, has been taking steps to promote economic emancipation, fight sexual violence, and increase women’s political participation. Other countries are following Sweden’s lead—from Canada to the UK—in recognizing that gender equality is critical to advancing a country’s foreign policy objectives, asserts Hydén.  

Marissa Conway and Asha Herten-Crabb, both from the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy in the UK, analyze nuclear disarmament through the lens of feminist foreign policy (FPP), arguing that is provides a novel framework to conceptualize and dismantle male-dominated hierarchy in the nuclear field. FPP is not simply about promoting more women in nuclear policy, point out the authors, but also about challenging the nuclear custodianship of the UN Security Council’s Permanent 5.

Emine Bozkurt, Director of Human Rights Policy at Amnesty International in the Netherlands, writes on the role of global organizations in advancing gender equality and empowerment for women and girls, focusing in particular on how the organization, International IDEA, supports and helps advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5.

Irsi Kristjansdottir, a migration and humanitarian specialist at UN Women in Turkey, also discusses the particular challenges faced by women and girls in conflict and post-conflict societies. The author touts Turkey's response effort to the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as points out critical policy questions that lie ahead for deepening the global response. This includes addressing the link between forced migration and human trafficking and how climate change is likely to exacerbate forced migration. 

Meryem Aslan and Josephine Whitaker-Yılmaz, Country Director of Oxfam in Turkey and the Advocacy and Campaign Officer at Oxfam, argue for a more tailored and gender-sensitive approach to the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey than the one currently in place. In particular, they underline the importance of investing in education and health care for women and call upon international donations to make gender-specific programs to support sustainable social inclusion.

Sanem Oktar, former President of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGIDER), spotlights the economic condition of women in Turkey and reflects on the barriers to women’s participation in economic, political and social life. Oktar points to discouraging statistics—Turkey has the lowest female labor force participation rate among all OECD countries—and highlights that the lack of female role models in decision-making processes hinder women’s economic participation.

Batuhan Aydagül, the Director of the Education Reform Initiative (ERI), tackles Turkey’s progress towards gender equality in education and evaluates the Ministry of National Education (MoNE)’s efforts toward this end. For Aydagül, despite significant headway in achieving equality in numbers, politicization of gender in Turkey has hindered overall improvement. The author recommends that a national dialogue must be fostered that challenges both the secular-modernist and conservative approaches to women empowerment through education.

Aili Mari Tripp, Professor at the at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, examines the role of Algerian women activists in political protests. Shedding light on two secular movements-- Kabyle movement and the women’s movement—that have influenced the recent 2019 uprising, Tripp asserts that although there is a strong resolve to fight for a democratic Algeria that guarantees gender equality, there is still has a long way to go.

Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California, expounds on the injustices of the kafala system in the UAE, which ties domestic workers to their employers, noting that for employee’s labor abuses persist, and for employers, legal culpability presents a moral conundrum. Parreñas emphasizes that it behooves states in the Gulf to improve labor conditions for domestic workers and reform the employer-employee relationship.

L. Yildiz Tokman, Executive Committee Member of the NGO Forum at CEDAW-Turkey, analyzes urban planning from a gender-equality perspective, noting that for Istanbul to be a truly livable city for women, a more egalitarian local approach is needed. While gender-neutral policies and projects have been introduced in several of Istanbul’s municipalities—Beylikdüzü in particular has shown significant progress— with regards to general policymaking, gender equality has not been prioritized.

Canan Güllü, President of the Women Associations of Turkey, stresses the importance of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence as a milestone step towards ending violence against women. Güllü concurs that refugee women and girls in Turkey are particularly at risk to gender-based violence. Although Turkey was the Convention’s first signatory, Güllü underlines that there are challenges in its implementation and that political will is lacking.

An important acknowledgement going to the premium corporate sponsor of this issue, Ford. In addition, we would like to thank our online sponsor, Garanti Bank. We also appreciate the continuing support of our other sponsors: QNB Finansbank, Halifax International Security Conference, SOCAR, TEB, and Turcas Petrol.

Progress on gender equality across the board is far too slow. However, the articles in this issue shine a light on how some of the obstacles can be overcome—on a grassroots, state, and international level. We are grateful to the authors for their sharing their opinions and recommendations, and look forward to feedback from our readers.

The TPQ team