In advance of that meeting, a coalition of 20 women's organizations has released their own report, stating little to no progress has been made in the past 5 years. The main points:
- Conservative gender roles continue, and statements by top officials have only supported them. Prime Minister Erdogan has lately taken to telling every married young woman he meets "have at least three babies!" to prevent the Turkish work force from shrinking. Child rearing is apparently the highest aspiration Turkey's leader has for its young women.
- Not only is female labor force participation low, but it has been declining since 2005. The report notes that the Turkish employment agency İş-Kur has done nothing to promote female employment despite stated goals of increasing female labor force participation (FLFP) to almost 30% by 2013. This is an issue I have been doing background research on, and hopefully a future priority for TEPAV, which can play a special role thanks to its strong connections with Turkish industry leaders. TEPAV was founded by TOBB, the Turkish chamber of commerce, and is just launching a large, high profile project with İş-Kur to retrain unemployed people in strategic sectors. So to grow more engaged in this, to actually create change, the next step for TEPAV would be to work with the relevant agencies, chambers and NGOs to design, implement, and evaluate programs to increase FLFP.
- Domestic violence is widespread. A survey from last year shows 39% of women are "affected by domestic violence," which I assume means directly and indirectly, though I can't find the original report. It is clear that the government response has been inadequate; rhetoric and legislation without action. A 2005 law required every municipality with a population of 50,000 (164 by my count) to establish a women's shelter, to date only 52 have. The problem - no funding - this was simply an unfunded mandate, designed to make the government look good while doing nothing. A further consequence is that 42% of women were unaware that the law protected them from domestic violence.
- Social services - family planning only targets women, women must have consent from their husband to have an abortion, and women are somewhat dependent on husbands or fathers to receive free health care.
- There are too few women in the media - aside from the attractive women on screen, it's mostly a men's club.
A final point - it seems mainly "women's organizations" are working on women's rights issues in Turkey, which I would guess is the norm around the world. The problem in Turkey is that it is too easy for men to dismiss these organizations as pastimes for the wives of rich men or outlets for angry feminists, even when they are doing good research, advocacy or service provision. In a policy environment where men hold most of the power, what can be the catalyst for change? I argue that on issues such as female employment, it will take an organization such as TEPAV, which powerful men cannot dismiss so easily.