The Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the International Labor Organization (ILO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Thursday to promote more accessible childcare to encourage women’s participation in the labor force in Turkey.

“Policymakers in Turkey recognize that the unequal sharing of childcare responsibilities within the family is one of the main reasons for women’s lower labor-market participation,” the EBRD said in a statement.

According the statement, the EBRD, the ILO, and the UMT agreed to strengthen the capacity of Turkish municipalities to provide enhanced childcare services, enabling more women to seek job opportunities and stay in the workforce.

Arvid Tuerkner, the EBRD managing director for Turkey, said during the pandemic gender equality worsened for working women. He added: “Now, more than ever, is the time to create a more enabling environment for women to find employment, stay in jobs and advance their careers.”

Saying that childcare solutions are critical to address this issue, Tuerkner noted the EBRD will provide technical support, including a review of relevant municipal law, coordinate, and manage regular consultations of the policy working group and support the implementation of its recommendations.

Director of ILO’s Turkey office Numan Ozcan underlined that one of the main reasons for women’s low participation in the labor force is responsibility for care, especially childcare roles, which fall on the shoulders of women.

The collaboration sets out the way forward for our organizations to scale up accessible, quality and affordable municipal early childhood care and education services in Turkey, he added.

Fatma Sahin, president of the UMT and mayor of Gaziantep province in southeastern Turkey, noted many women were forced to leave the workforce during the pandemic because childcare was not available.

Noting that disadvantaged groups are the ones most affected in the crisis, Sahin said the agreement will empower municipalities to enhance available childcare, which goes beyond just kindergartens.

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