Meet 10 incredible women from Istanbul

Welcome to Istanbul!

One of the newest WOW Festival across the world, the inaugural WOW Istanbul Festival takes place to celebrate 2021’s International Women’s Day. 

Presented by The British Council and and Sabanci Foundation in partnership with The WOW Foundation, its ambitious programme will be presented online allowing thousands across the world to access it.

Cultural Life, Arts and Expression: Canan (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation


Canan, having always taken a political stance in every period of her art practice, prefers not to use a surname that one assumes either from the father or the husband; and instead, she continues making her art as CANAN. She examines oppression of gender roles by the patriarchy in her work in various fields such as photography, miniature, video and performance.

“In the past, female artists were afraid of calling themselves feminists since they thought they would be discriminated against by men. Now I see that female artists do not hesitate to call themselves feminists. While defending their rights, women do not refrain from openly talking about and discussing their problems."

Identity: Sema Kaygusuz (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Sema Kaygusuz

Writer Sema Kaygusuz, who has been awarded many national and international prizes for her innovative and experimental body-of-work, is among the universal representatives of contemporary literature thanks to her skilfully constructed literary language. Kaygusuz’s work focuses on nature and humanity, with situations that unsettle and encourage the reader to question.

"I believe women’s minds have remained completely free of male-dominated language norms; I think this is a great strength. I am sure that this language - which teaches a new vocabulary to the mainstream media, the male-dominated political landscape, the academia, and to the public - will soon be described as a feminist leap forward."

Conflict: Rümeysa Çamdereli (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Rümeysa Çamdereli

Rümeysa Çamdereli defines herself as a “Muslim, feminist, musician, mother”. She took part in the currently inactive Muslims’ Initiative Against Violence Against Women. Highlighting that she lives a life centred on women’s issues, Rümeysa continues her activist activities with Reçel Blog (Marmalade Blog) and Havle Women’s Association.

"These past 10 years have been first a process of existence, then of becoming visible and finally becoming a “real” part of the feminist movement. We still haven’t persuaded Muslim men that we are Muslim (!), but we think we convinced many feminists that we are feminist, and we are feminist, and we are doing our best to foster solidarity."

Climate Change: Pınar Öncel (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Pınar Öncel

Pınar Öncel, one of the founders of Sürdürülebilir Yaşam Film Festivali (Sustainable Life Film Festival) and, is a designer and sustainability consultant. SYFF invites the audience to take action for change, as it inspires the audience with stories collected from different parts of the world, providing a better understanding of the systematic problems interacting with each other, and the concept of sustainability.

"From a sustainability perspective, all the ecological and social problems we are facing are interrelated. In a world where there is no gender equality, it is impossible for us to overcome global problems, especially the climate crisis; since all inequalities and the climate crisis have a deep-rooted relationship in terms of both causes and effects."

Education: Prof. Fatmagül Berktay (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Prof. Fatmagül Berktay

Political scientist, academician and author, Prof. Dr. Fatmagül Berktay has worked on subjects including Turkey’sdemocratisation process, contemporary political theory, the status of women and women’s movements in Turkey and in the world, and religion and gender issues. Berktay underlines that women’s rights are very fragile, and the most easily taken away rights are those given to women.

“We are women who recognise that all problems are ours; we reclaim our wisdom, reinvent our tomorrows, challenge everything including dominant power and redefine everything."

Finance and Economy: Seben Ayşe Dayı (Erişilebilir Her Şey) (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Seben Ayşe Dayı (Erişilebilir Her Şey)

Journalist, educational anthropologist and disability rights advocate Seben Ayşe Dayı, is an individual with cerebral palsy. ccording to Dayı, solutions to existing problems can be developed by making state institutions physically accessible in accordance with universal design standards and providing qualified employment opportunities.

"My window on feminism is a place rarely observed all over the world, combining the views of two different ones. I am a woman. I am a disabled woman...We have a lot to learn in order to understand each other’s problems and to defend their rights. The past decade has been a very good start. Yet only a start…“ 

Domestic Life: Canan Arın (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Canan Arın

Canan is a feminist lawyer was awarded the Bruno Leoni Award due to her brave work on women’s rights in Turkey, and fights for women to have free and independent lives with her work on misogynist policies, the relationship of these policies with femicide, and on maintenance rights of women.

“As a woman, I always worked freely for what I believed in. If you have a cause you believe in, you can achieve anything."

Leadership, Power and Politics: Gülseren Onanç (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Gülseren Onanç

 Businesswoman, politician and women's rights activist Gülseren Onanç is among the founders of The Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGİDER). She is the participant from Turkey of Transformative Women Leaders and Connected Women Leaders groups, and the 2019-2020 fellow of Washington-based Vital Voices Association’s VV Engage program.

“I believe that women would better rule my country and the world. We, women, will build a new system through global solidarity in our country and in the world. We will achieve this with feminist consciousness and solidarity."

Health: Özge Akbulut (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Özge Akbulut

Özge Akbulut is an Associate Professor at Sabancı University, Istanbul. She co-founded Surgitate which designs and fabricates tactile surgical training platforms. The flagship product of Surgitate is a breast model where surgeons-in-training can practice modern oncoplastic techniques.

"Women’s access to breast-conserving surgical techniques affects the post-operative process positively. Surgeons need training to develop their skills and acquire breast-conserving techniques."

Peace and Justice: Hacer Foggo (2020) by Elif KahveciWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Hacer Foggo

Human Rights advocate, activist and writer Hacer Foggo tackles neglected problems based on the idea that poverty is a human rights violation. The activist has been working for many years with women and children in poverty specific to Roma communitites and has fought against the urban transformation in Sulukule and Küçükbakkalköy. 

"The founders of “Deep Poverty Network”, the movement we initiated against social injustice and inequality with Covid-19, were...women who have been feeling the effects of inequality since the day they were born. We have no choice but to overcome these troubling times by holding the hand of our sister, who tries to survive along with her growing anger in her single room.” 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Women of the World
Meet Inspirational Women from around the World
View theme
Google apps