According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum, Turkey is the 130th out of 149 countries in terms of the gender gap in political representation, and ranks lowest on gender equality among the countries that are its peers in the high human development group. 1 Despite the increase in the number of women in the Parliament from 4.7 to 17.4 percent in the past decade, women’s political participation, particularly in local administrations, remains very low.2 The results of the March 31st 2019 elections show that a female mayor was elected in only 4 provinces. 3 Moreover, merely 29 out of 920 district major positions were fulfilled by women.
Can female politicians be effective in local politics despite the worrying representation rates? How do women in local politics contribute to policy making at the local governments? Taking into account the fact that female politicians are more interested in public services, are they more likely to support gender-sensitive policies?
This report recalculates the share of women in local district councils across Turkey using data from the Supreme Electoral Council, and focuses on municipalities in districts where women are more likely to influence policy making because they have higher shares in councils.4 Researchers conducted face-to-face, structured, in-depth interviews with 31 female politicians from five different parties in six different provinces. Female politicians from different political parties in Istanbul, Bursa, Diyarbakır, İzmir, Ankara and Adana, and their views on politics, on running for office, and their political views, their take on their parties’ is a reminder of how rich the local politics are and how important the far- reaching into the society gender is. The fieldwork, which was completed right before the elections on March 31st, revealed how far politics in general, and local politics in particular, to gender, just by looking at the commonalities across and divergences among female local politicians from AK Party, CHP, HDP and MHP/İyi Parti.