Selin Ozunaldim, (@selinozunaldim) A seventeen-year old girl who works as a women's rights activist shares her story with us! to continue reading scroll down.
As a 17-year-old gender activist from Istanbul, my journey started two years ago when my 7-year-old brother once told me that I was lucky because I just simply could get married and I didn't have to work after.
That was probably the moment when I apprehended I was going to be, I had to be the voice of change. That was the moment when I realized the risk of this mindset created by the society. Such a stereotype that even could, and would, affect little child's thought structure. Deeply in my heart, I knew I had to do something, something but didn't know where to start, nor what to do.
Since growing up, I have always had iconic role models in my life, such as Lady Diana, Coco Chanel, Malala, Michelle Obama and so many more...women who made a difference in the world, women who did not leave of their purposes because people told them they couldn't do. With their goals in mind, I remember promising myself to take action in the morning because, if not me, then who? If not now, then when? and sending an email to UNWomen to become involved in the HeForShe movement later that night. I remember sending my best friend a text of ''Oh imagine maybe my whole life will change after this email'' in a jokingly way, only if I knew it was all true... It all happened very fast after that. I could never, in my wildest dreams, can see that I would become the youngest representative of HeForShe in Turkey but it was not happily ever after that, being an activist, day by day, you find more things that have to be changed. I am living in Istanbul, I do go to a private school and I am more on the lucky side of my country but because of that, I believe it is and should be my responsibility to help girls who do not have the same opportunities that I have, being the voice of young women and giving them a platform to find their own voices. That brings us to the start of my journey with starting the first Girl Up Club in my country, Girl Up Istanbul. Girls have tremendous, often untapped power to change the world. As Girl Up Campaign, started by United Nations Foundation in 2010, our mission is to help girls access their inner power to advance the skills, rights, and opportunities of girls everywhere, in every corner around the globe.
We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate their careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, said the Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Thinking about these wise words, I have noticed the disproportion in the distribution of male and female students in STEM clubs and extracurricular activities at my own school. With the hope of changing that, I have reached out to our FIRST Robotics Competition Team, Ultimate Robotics 7830. It was such a joy and honor to see their tremendous support on the cause. We all wanted to encourage girls to be involved at the forefront of the STEM field. Thinking of ways of how to reach out to young girls around Turkey, we have brought the Girls Who Code movement to our country and became the one and only Girls Who Code team in Turkey. With our school's support, we have hosted workshops, conferences, teamed up with different FRC teams, and have visited public schools around the city and gave classes to young girls of the basics of coding and the fun side of science. It is such a delight to see young girls' spark o their eyes when we leave and they say that they want to be the next Margaret Hamilton.
My main focus at the moment is an equal education opportunity. To achieve this goal, alongside working with United Nations Girls Education Initiative to develop better education programs for girls, I am also a member of Young Leaders Task Force of Girl Rising to reach out and help the girls who's education disrupted because of COVID-19.
I cannot stress enough of how much gratified I am of being one of the 300 people who were selected by the United Nations, all around the world, for Gender Youth Activists and now, my biggest supporter and motivation is my little brother who is mentioning my activism everywhere, even in his classroom, with a proud look on his face, correcting people whenever he hears a sexist word, action and encourages his friends to be the part of the change.
Dear people who want to start the change all around the world, always remember the one quote Meghan Markle said during her speech at the Girl Up Global Leadership Summit, ''Keep challenging. Keep pushing, make them a little uncomfortable because, in that discomfort, we actually create the conditions to re-imagine our standards, policies, and our leadership.''
Be you, do you because it is going to worth it, just trust me.