Empowering women is a top priority in the pre-accession process that is going on between the EU and Turkey. The accession partnership with the EU calls for identification of the challenges women face and specific priorities to promote the role of women in society. A gender-based disadvantageous socio-economic situation is more critical in rural communities. In this sense, studying, analyzing and understanding socio-demographic and socio-economic aspects of rural women's lives is the first step in formulating training and other services for empowering them. The status of rural women in Mersin (Turkey), where 46 per cent of inhabitants live in a rural area, was investigated and analyzed to provide the necessary quantitative and qualitative data for decision makers and public authorities to contribute to improvement of the status of rural women in the region. Chi-square analysis and multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) were used to investigate the relationships between several socio-demographic and socio-economic variables. Findings of this study reveal that the young population is better educated and that most women desire their daughters to obtain a better education and an occupation. Rather than age, education is emerging as an important factor determining the participation of rural women in decision-making processes, and the regularity and amount of monthly income seems to be an important determinant of the number of children per household. In this context the traditional perceptions and norms seem to be changing. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.