BY SHAHID NAJAM
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS - Gender inequality continues to remain a major global challenge confronting humanity. However, it is no longer acceptable to live in a world where young girls are taken out of school and forced into early marriage, where womenâ€™s employment opportunities are limited, and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality.
Equality for women and girls is indeed a social and economic imperative being one of the most important human rights. Empowered and educated women are a sine qua non for the robustness and sustainability of economic growth. Similarly, the equitable representation of women in political, economic, social and cultural spheres leads to societal peace and stability, not to mention a more responsive and responsible articulation of the needs and preferences for integration in the national, regional and local planning, programming and decision processes.
The neglect of womenâ€™s rights means the social and economic potential of half the worldâ€™s population is underused. In order to tap this potential, our world must open up places for women in political leadership, in science and technology and as heads of corporations.
To this end, the theme of this yearâ€™s March 8 International Womenâ€™s Day is â€œEqual access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.â€
Global figures testify that we must act fast and collectively if we want to create decent work opportunities for women, and thus make true gender equality a shared legacy of humanity in the 21st century.
Gender gap a global epidemic
Gender inequality in job opportunities and violence against women still haunt societies. While up to 70 percent of women are victims of violence during their lifetime, women make up nearly two thirds of the worldâ€™s 759 million illiterate adults. Women also dominate low-paid, low-status, part-time or contract work that offers limited opportunities for social security coverage.
Though women perform 66 percent of the worldâ€™s work and produce 50 percent of the food, they earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the worldâ€™s property.
In Turkey, although important achievements have been recorded, there are areas that still require improvement.
In Turkey, compared to the labor force participation rate for men, which was 70.4 as of November 2010, an estimated 27.5 percent of women were in the labor force. This falls far behind the global average rate of 52 percent.
Due to the prevalence of negative gender stereotypes based on social, economic and cultural barriers, women face serious difficulties entering and remaining in the labor market. This is clearly seen in the 19.6 percent rate of non-agricultural unemployment for women as of November 2010.
Violence against women and honor killings are also serious crimes.
There is a key gap in the participation of women in decision-making. The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 9.1 percent (with only 50 seats held by women in the 550-member Parliament) and that of local government is less than 2 percent.
The Gender Inequality Index, or GII, reveals gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labor market participation, with Turkey ranking 77th out of 138 countries.
United Nations agencies in Turkey are working with the government and NGOs to empower women and for gender equality.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, provides technical support in the gathering and analyzing of sex-disaggregated data for the agricultural and rural development sectors. It also raises awareness on the importance of gender, equity and decent rural employment issues for achieving food security and agricultural development.
The International Labor Organization, or ILO, in line with its policy on gender equality and in cooperation with Turkish authorities, works to enhance womenâ€™s employment and the provision of decent work in Turkey.
The International Organization for Migration, or IOM, as it enters its 21st year of operations in Turkey, continues efforts to uphold the human rights and dignity of migrant women.
The United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, in cooperation with other U.N. agencies, national and international partners, aims for the empowerment of women through capacity-building and skills development in addition to creating employment and income-earning opportunities.
The United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, is working to increase the involvement of young people in promoting gender equality and combating gender-based violence.
The U.N. Refugee Agency, or UNHCR, provides gender-based training for civil society, NGO staff, host-country border guards, police, military units and others who come into contact with refugees.
UNICEFâ€™s the Girlsâ€™ Education Campaign and catch-up education initiative have born very successful results in decreasing the gender gap in school enrollment.
With the participation of FAO, ILO, IOM, UNDP and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, or UNIDO, and the United Nations Joint Programmes, â€œGrowth with Decent Work for All: National Youth Employment Program and Pilot Implementation in Antalyaâ€ and â€œHarnessing Sustainable Linkages for the SMEs in Turkeyâ€™s Textile Sector,â€ aim at increasing decent work opportunities for women.
In Turkey, all essential elements required to achieve the empowerment of women are present and at work â€“ a determined government, a strong private sector, effective NGOs and a vibrant media. Moreover, the U.N. in Turkey will continue to work closely with all parties involved to promote womenâ€™s rights and achieve gender parity in Turkey.
The U.N. takes the lead to spur global progress
In an historic move on July 2, 2010, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to establish a U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (called U.N. Women) by merging four different entities to accelerate the progress in meeting the needs of the women and girls worldwide. The U.N. Women is committed to boosting the promotion of gender equality, eradicating discrimination and expanding opportunities for women around the globe. The world indeed is at a critical juncture for transformative change and the world must seize and deliver on this opportunity to ensure and secure gender parity and emancipate women for economic, political, social and cultural servitude.
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