Bridging the Divide: Female Legislators Look to Turkey for Lessons Learned

US women legislators and women parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco and Tunisia at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, May 28, 2013.

As part of their “Women, Peace and Security” partnership, EWI’s Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention and Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) brought together U.S. state legislators and international parliamentarians in Ankara on May 28-30. The purpose of this meeting was to help participants learn from the experiences of Turkish women leaders, and explore ways in which women leaders can better support one another globally. Women in Turkey have successfully gained a place at the highest levels of government. 

"We struggle in a different way, but we struggle with the same issues" responded one of the U.S. legislators upon hearing accounts of the difficulties women have in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of the positive outcomes of this meeting was that members of the U.S. delegation committed to take up the issue of the security needs of women with their respective members in Congress.

Ten U.S. state legislators and six participants hailing from Afghanistan, Morocco, Pakistan and Tunisia gathered for a series of dialogues with Associate Professor Dr. Aşkın Asan, Deputy Minister of the Ministry for Family and Social Policy, as well as Turkish parliamentary committees. The aim of the partnership is to create better understanding between these female legislators, to forge personal ties and to educate them on various models and tools available to increase the role each of these women can play in their respective security debates.

The delegation was briefed on the developments in Morocco, which largely escaped the massive demonstrations that the MENA region experienced throughout the Arab Awakening. Morocco has been compared to Turkey in that their progressive and inclusive policies serve as an example for newly arising democracies across North Africa, much like Turkey serves as an example and a bridge between East and West. All eyes are now on Tunisia, which will be voting on its new constitution in a few weeks. The outcome of this process will be pivotal in determining the success of the revolution.

In debating the barriers to women reaching the higher levels of policy making, the delegation quizzed Deputy Minister Asan. Particularly, they wanted to know what steps the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is taking to promote the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, adopted in 2000. The resolution requires United Nations Member States to incorporate women into peace processes and negotiations.

A conference held in Istanbul two years ago entitled “Change in Muslim Societies and the Role of Women” produced an agreement on the establishment of a gender-equality institute, but unfortunately the support for the creation of this institute remains largely in words only. The partnership will seek to further press governments on the implementation of this agreement and will seek to establish a relationship with the Parliamentary Union of the OIC member States (PUIC) to further engage women in the vital debates on conflict prevention, peace and security.