Women Friendly Cities Programme, its components and methods take the human rights principles as their guide with the aim of creating “Women Friendly Cities” through empowerment of the local administrations and women’s organizations. In the second phase, programme aims to expand this empowerment model, which allows women’s participation in local and national policy as well as decision-making processes.
Local Ownership, Dialogue and Participation: Local Equality Action Plans (LEAP)
Local Equality Action Plans are the key documents prepared to set the roadmap which should be followed to ensure equality of women and men at local level and to strengthen women’s status. Local Equality Action Plans are prepared in six headings (education, health, employment, participation in management mechanisms, violence against women and urban services) in accordance with CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women) and other national/ international plans and documents. LEAPs are drafted with the participation of all stakeholders and they serve as a key document describing the responsibilities and required collaboration of local administrations, provincial organizations, governorship, special provincial administration as well as civil society of the cities to ensure the gender equality on local level.
The most important characteristic that makes LEAPs realistic, feasible and result-oriented is that these action plans are being prepared in a “participatory” approach. In accordance with this process, we ensure that all of the relevant stakeholders (governorships, municipalities, special provincial administrations, provincial directorates, development agencies, women’s civil society organizations, universities, professional organizations and the private sector) come together with the workshops and trainings organized as part of the Women Friendly Cities Programme, and that they determine their own duties and authority by discussing the problems and the needs of the women in that city together.
As a result of these activities (with the joint efforts and contributions of all stakeholders) the LEAPs communicate the realities and needs of women in their particular city in relation to their participation in the local decision-making mechanisms, urban services, combating violence against women, economic empowerment and labour force, educational services and health services as well as the duties and the obligations that need to be fulfilled by the institutions.
On account of the LEAPs, the principle of gender equality becomes an institutional goal and is owned by the institutions. This endeavour not only improves the cooperation among local stakeholders and embraces their mutual dialogue, but it also makes partnerships among different institutions possible.
Local Equality Mechanisms
Within the context of the Women Friendly Cities Programme, each Programme city established Local Equality Mechanisms in order to achieve equality of women and men in the areas of “Local Services and Participation.”
Together with these mechanisms and in line with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (in which Turkey is one of the parties in this convention), the aim was to support the local implementation of the National Equality Action Plan (prepared by the General Directorate of the Status of Women). These mechanisms were comprised of the Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committees, Governorship / Municipality Equality Units and the Gender Equality Commissions established within Local Councils.
Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committees
The implementation, success and overall outcomes of the LEAPs are being monitored by the Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committees, which have been established as an umbrella mechanism within the framework of the Women Friendly Cities Programme. The Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committees are founded within the scope of CEDAW and the National Equality Action Plans, and coordinate development, implementation and monitoring of policies. This is accomplished by determining the needs related to the services at the urban level, in order to enable the delivery of local services that are in conformity with the needs of female citizens.
The Provincial Women’s Rights Coordination Committees also ensure accountability and transparency due to their participatory and transparent structure - and can monitor efforts to becoming a women friendly city in an efficient and realistic manner. The secretariats of the committees in question are being administered by the Governorship Equality Units, and the committees convene once every month or every two months depending on a city’s own decision.
Within the scope of the Women Friendly Cities Programme, each Programme partner city establishes an “Equality Commission” within their Municipal Councils and General Provincial Councils. At the same time, we establish commissions for the equality of men and women within district municipal councils in Metropolitan cities.
The Equality Commissions make up one of the most fundamental links of the local equality mechanisms, because in this way draft resolutions prepared within the councils are approached from a gender perspective. For example, the positive and negative impacts of a park or a road construction for women in a particular city can only be assessed properly if these specialized Equality Commissions properly evaluate them. In the same vein, the inclusion of the Local Equality Action Plans within local administrations’ strategic plans, the allocating resources for the activities in these plans and the implementation of the plans can only be possible with the efforts of the Equality Commissions.
The duties and authority of the Equality Commissions can be summarized as the following: intervening in the decision-making processes within the councils so that gender strategy is included, ensuring that the problems and solutions for the realization of the services needed in relation to equality are considered within the councils, collaborating with women’s CSOs and conducting research using needs and situation analyses.
Equality Unit/Equality Desk
One of the most important elements of maintaining the sustainability of local equality mechanisms is the Equality Units and Equality Desks. The Equality Units (which are established within governorships, special provincial directorates and municipalities) are responsible for the preparation of institutional action plans together with the relevant institutions within the framework of the LEAPs, for monitoring programs and reporting them, for determining the problems in practice and for developing strategies and finding solutions to the problems.
Equality Desks are established in the Provincial Directorates (e.g. Provincial Directorate of Public Health, PD of National Education, etc.), Regional Development Agencies, related Departments of Municipalities, and Universities, and they work in coordination with the Equality Unit that they are affiliated with (e.g. Equality Unit of the Governorate). These desks act as units responsible for preparing institutional action plans, for reporting the activities to the equality unit and for providing logistical support for required trainings. In metropolitan cities, units established within district governorships act in the same manner.
Support for Civil Society - Grant Scheme
Local Equality Action Plans need a very participatory process for both the preparation and implementation stage. In order for the LEAPs to be implemented, the local administrations and CSOs need to work together to fulfil their duties designated within the plan. For this reason, the CSOs are expected to take up active responsibilities and mobilize during the implementation of the LEAPs.
Within this process, no matter how much resources are allocated by the public, there is still a need for additional resources. With the grant scheme that will be carried out within the framework of the Women Friendly Cities Programme, the implementation and the monitoring of the LEAPs as well as the cooperation among institutions will be supported. The Grant Scheme will at the same time provide capacity building for the internal capacities of CSOs, and therefore will facilitate the formation of a more efficient and active civil society with respect to monitoring, supervision and reporting both at the national and the international level.