Turkey's June 2015 elections brought encouraging news as women took nearly 18 per cent of parliamentary seats, up from just over 14 per cent. While this remains far below parity or even the global average, it signals the stirrings of change beginning within the soaring white marble walls of the Grand National Assembly.
Even before the elections, drawing on UN Women assistance, in partnership with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Assembly had begun systematically tackling some of the issues that have kept women mostly on the margins of political debate. The shift started with the Committee on Equal Opportunity for Women and Men conducting a gender self-assessment of the Assembly, only the fifth such exercise in the world.
Evidence of gender gaps led to new awareness and action. More women now serve on parliamentary bodies, including the powerful Committee on Planning and Budgeting. Greater gender responsiveness became a plank in the Assembly's institutional strategy. Turkey's first comprehensive gender review of fundamental legislation put proposals on the table to usher in changes in laws related to local administration, education and employment, among other areas.
For the legislative experts who support parliamentary committees, gender equality training now helps them look for gender dimensions in draft legislation, whether the subject is energy or industry, social services or the environment. A gender checklist makes this step a matter of routine.
"We see laws in an entirely new way," affirms one expert. "We know that all issues relate to gender equality, and that all laws can contribute in some way to advancing it. This knowledge will help us in everything we do."