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UNDP Turkey: This is the New Horizons Podcasts prepared by United Nations Development Programme in Turkey. In this episode, we will talk about our project on accountability and transparency implemented together with grassroots women in Trabzon and in İzmir. ‘Enhanced accountability and efficiency at the local level through grassroots women empowerment’ started in October 2015 and lasted for three months. As a result, the needs and perceptions of grassroots women in Konak, İzmir and Ortahisar, Trabzon on accountability and efficiency in governance were analyzed. Sezin Üskent, who is the project expert of this initiative, explained the aim as following:

Sezin Üskent: We designed this initiative entirely upon the idea of implementing the principles of good governances. The main aims are to ensure the citizens take part in decision making processes at the local level, hence have a role in service planning. After the services are planned, the aim is to ensure that the citizens also monitor the implementation process and at the end, ask institutions about the results. For citizens to develop these abilities, we implemented a capacity building programme. Although this initiative aimed for capacity building, it has more achieved the awareness raising part.

UNDP Turkey: We have listened to Sezin Üskent. This initiative was inspired from the studies undertaken during the Women Friendly Cities UN Joint Programme which was ended recently. In this regard, Sezin Üskent explains why İzmir and Trabzon was chosen for this initiative:

Sezin Üskent: There was a neighborhood component under the Women Friendly Cities programme which was implemented by UNDP and UNFPA between 2012-2014. This neighborhood component has undertaken many activities: Identifying the most crucial needs in the neighborhood by the women; capacity building for citizens in order for them to be able to ask for the services to fulfill these needs, to advocate for these needs, to monitor the services, to write petitions, to apply to the institutions; raising awareness in local institutions; piloting for local institutions to work with neighborhood teams while they prepare their plans for the service delivery. İzmir and Trabzon were the most successful pilot cities at the time where there was already a capacity developed with the Joint Programme.

UNDP Turkey: What kind of activities were undertaken during this three-month initiative called ‘Enhanced accountability and efficiency at the local level through grassroots women empowerment’? We again listened to Sezin Üskent:

Sezin Üskent: In this initiative, we wanted to build upon the already existing capacity and develop it a little bit more for monitoring, for inviting the local institutions to be more transparent and accountable. In İzmir, we had two neighborhoods, one of them was already a pilot before during the Joint Programme and we added a new one. In one of the neighborhoods, we organized trainings and worked for sending women’s request regarding renovation of the neighborhood center to the municipality and for ensuring the municipality briefs the neighborhood women on their plans about the center. In the second neighborhood, the municipality had already built a neighborhood center. We worked with Konak Municipality in İzmir. The center in the second neighborhood was just established hence we worked for identifying which services are needed by the citizens and for evaluation of existing services by the citizens via the citizen satisfaction survey. For both activities, we organized meetings where representatives from municipalities also participated. We also organized capacity building and awareness raising workshops and trainings on the importance of working at the neighborhood level, participation of citizens to decision making processes for any services planned for their neighborhood and the feedback to be given by the municipality on the projects they realized at the neighborhood level. In Trabzon, our activities were a bit different. In Trabzon, we worked with Ortahisar Municipality and Ortahisar City Council. Women Assembly of the Ortahisar City Council examined the strategic plan of Ortahisar Municipality through a gender perspective: how much the participation of partners to the strategic plan’s preparation, identification of activities, evaluation of performance evaluation criteria was ensured, how much the women organizations involved in these processes; how much the Local Equality Action Plans guided the preparations of this strategy. In the context of this strategy, they organized a big workshop where unit heads, members of Equality Commission in the Municipality Assembly and NGOs participated. In this workshop, it was discussed whether this strategy was prepared with a gender perspective, not only for women and services that are directly for women, but for whole municipality services. Of course, they also worked on identifying transparency systems in the strategy.

UNDP Turkey: This short-term initiative achieved sustainable results. Sezin Üskent talks about these results and how these are sustainable:

Sezin Üskent: These two studies in this initiative had sustainability in its results. First, we learned that the citizen satisfaction survey conducted during the initiative will be integrated into service planning of Konak municipality. The municipality have already taken action to organize more neighborhood meetings. Second, there is a city council and mukhtar assembly within the city council to ensure the neighborhood participate in the decision making processes more. However, in order to make the mukhtar assembly more participatory, city council started working on establishing neighborhood committees, composed of volunteers. They started the initial process for this to happen. In Ortahisar, the Women Assembly wants to expand these activities to the whole City Council and establish a neighborhood based monitoring mechanism. They also understood that they need to establish neighborhood teams in the City Council. They will act on these. They will organize new workshops on monitoring and questioning the transparency of all services in the city, not only the services for women. In addition, they will prepare a monitoring report which will monitor the Local Equality Action Plan of Trabzon. They will most probably announce this report during the 8th of March. These are the cities own plans. Of course, these are not enough. I don’t this these are enough as one of their friends in this road. I think, these kind of examples should be supported by high level policies in Turkey, the neighborhood based activities should be increased in order to have more best practices and there has to be projects or components within projects where different pilot studies at the neighborhood level are conducted in different cities. It is so because the importance of neighborhoods is substantially increasing in planning and in decision making processes. Hence, I think there should be new public policy projects and citizen based projects on the topic.

UNDP Turkey: You can tell us your opinions about this episode via Twitter with #yeniufuklar hashtag. During three-month initiative, we worked with grassroots women on accountability and transparency. Sezin Üskent talked about her observations on the perceptions of women about accountability and transparency:

Sezin Üskent: I can’t really say that they understand the transparency and accountability as we learned from the textbooks. We basically identified few different kinds of perceptions during our interviews with them. First, women can easily give very good examples about the accountability in their homes. They say that our daily expenditure is this and I went shopping and bought these; when I come back I informed my husband about my shopping. They also have perceptions about accountability on the fact how much the institutions realize the promises made to the citizens. However, there is also a general consent which is the fact that the local institutions usually asked the opinions of citizens but the citizens don’t know how much the institutions used and benefitted from these opinions. This is the first kind of perception. The second kind of perception is that citizens thinks the municipalities can do and should do everything they asked for. Hence, there are some deficiencies in basic knowledge on citizenship. They don’t know which institution provide which service and to what extent; which institution is responsible of what and to what extent and they also don’t know the basic differences between provincial organizations and local organizations. This knowledge is even more lacking in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Hence, as the municipalities are the closest institutions to them and they do neighborhood studies, they expect everything to be done by the municipalities. The municipality can deliver the services at a certain point and can be a mediator until a certain point. After a while, and if the issue is not within its mandate, they don’t follow it. In other words, the provincial organizations are not close to the citizens as they don’t do neighborhood studies, if it is not a social service. They are closer if there is a social service delivery. But because of this misperception, they think that the municipality should do everything for them, because I elected the municipality. Hence, when there is lack of service delivery, they intensively complain about the municipality. In other words, accountability means complaining for citizens. They either want more or they complain from everything. They don’t ask questions like what we wanted, how much of it was achieved, how much of it wasn’t achieved and why it wasn’t achieved. There is a situation like this.

UNDP Turkey: After analysis of perceptions and needs of grassroots women on accountability and efficiency in governance, the initiative aims to develop and support implementation of small-­‐scale initiatives for pilot neighborhoods, provide capacity building trainings on local governance and accountability both for institutions and neighborhood women and generate recommendations for increasing participation of citizens in local decision‐making processes and effective monitoring of those decisions by citizens. Sezin Üskent talks about how UNDP’s initiative helped the change in women’s perceptions on accountability and transparency:

Sezin Üskent: They realized that the accountability is not a single headed process, nor the asking for accountability. They learned that it is a process and first we need to participate to the planning, monitor the processes and then we can be part of accountability. The other thing was important for the institutions. The institutions were saying that we already do many things with our limited resources, the citizens demand from us and we involved them as much as we can. They were, in other words, talking about their disadvantages. But, especially the activities in Trabzon showed them that although they are operating with limited resources, they still need to involve citizens. They got this message very well, I think. I believe, the problems regarding participation to decision making processes and accountability will be easily solved when the City Council and its Women Assembly, in other words organized women are involved. In other words, this requires a little bit institutionalization. But we can’t really encounter such level of organization in other cities, especially in places where disadvantaged people are living. If you ask me what should be done for these people and neighborhoods, the institutions should go more to the neighborhoods and they should ensure the citizens have the habit of participating to the decision making processes. Because this system is also beneficial for institutions. They wanted the citizen not to come, question and demand. The responsibility to engage with citizens is only given to a certain unit or the municipality did not engage with citizens for real. Now, the local institutions understood the benefit of engaging with the citizens and doing things with the citizens. They also met with a tool like citizen satisfaction survey. We hope they will continue using this tool.

UNDP Turkey: We have come to end of the episode of New Horizons with the words of Sezin Üskent, project expert of ‘Enhanced accountability and efficiency at the local level through grassroots women empowerment’. In this episode, we will talk about our project on accountability and transparency implemented together with grassroots women in Trabzon and in İzmir. This program has been recorded at the studio of Yodiviki in İstanbul. You can follow our program on FM frequency in İstanbul, on Açık Radyo (Open Radio) on Internet, on university radios in our broadcasting network, on iTunes, Soundcloud, TuneIn, Pure Connect, Yodiviki, Audioboo and TTNET Müzik in podcast format, and also on tr.undp.org. Our user name for social media is undpturkiye. Hope to see you soon, good-bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PODCAST 147
18.01.2016

Enhanced accountability and efficiency at the local level through grassroots women empowerment

Sezin Üskent, Project Expert