Photos of 10 women

Celebrate the launch of The Hope Brigade, WOW’s exhibition in partnership with Google Arts & Culture. 

A year in the making, the online exhibition features 100 trailblazing women from 10 cities and countries around the world from Brisbane to Rio.

Across the 10 countries and regions, WOW’s exhibition - photographed by 10 up and coming female photographers and co-curated with WOW Partners from each of the 10 regions - tells a story of global feminisms and women’s movements through the stories of 10 women from each region, each looking at 10 themes.

These significant female stories will chart the changes they have seen in their own world and cast a light of the global picture, but more importantly they will act as a catalyst for the work that has to be done of the upcoming decade to keep the issue of gender equality at the forefront of everyone’s minds. 

We are pleased to share with you the WOW Istanbul selection. Please visit here to see the whole exhibition.

*Biographic texts prepared by Elif İpek Akkaya.
*Photographed by Elif Kahveci.


'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. I observe that male domination in the arts is coming to an end. Among the internationally recognised Turkish artists, women are in majority. I see more women collectors. More than half of the collectors who purchase my works are women. Ten years ago, although there were women working in arts institutions, the directors were mostly men. These days, women directors are a majority at important art institutions. I personally do not want to be called a female artist. Just as we do not refer to artists who are men as male artists, we should not refer to artists who are women, as female artists. An artist is simply an artist. An artist’s work is independent of one’s sex, race or age.         

I observe that this distinction is gradually vanishing among the new generation of artists. In our days, there was a struggle to be waged, now they are aware of their natural rights and they produce their works more comfortably. This implies that there was great progress in the last ten years, and that some issues have become too old-fashioned to be even discussed by the artistic community. It seems like there is an equal footing. Personally, I learnt to unburden myself of feeling like a victim and learnt to value myself as an individual. As long as I know my own worth, I do not care if someone tries to pressure me about it or label me with adjectives. I am destroying the male-domination in my head. I determine my own worth and I am valuable. This has nothing to do with gender. I would also like to add that I am very happy to be a woman with all my lust and desires.'

CANAN, yes just Canan. 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, with a personal approach, oppression of gender roles by the patriarchy, in her works in various fields such as photography, miniature, video and performance. She creates works that criticize the oppression of women in Turkey, and the institutions constituting discourses of power which underlie this oppression. The fact that she has works and exhibitions which have been censored since they were found to be dangerous, both in Turkey and abroad, does not stop the artist from doing what she believes in. She uses her body in her works and responds to the transformation of the female body into an object of political and artistic seduction, by transforming her own body into artistic material. She highlights the norms imposed on the female body, by giving space in her works to the feelings of dissatisfaction and inadequacy, created by the perception of beauty generated by dominant ideologies, since they standardize women and female bodies.

Canan Arın

'As a woman, I always worked freely for what I believed in. I have been a part of a real fight within the women’s movement for many years. If you have a cause you believe in, you can achieve anything. Women’s movement in Turkey has always been very strong. While in the past family law used be a complete macho system, at the of our struggles, we made sure that necessary rules are put in place for the protection of equality within the family. In the old penal code, when a woman was raped, this offence was considered to be against not the body of the woman, but public conduct and family order. The female body was seen as a commodity in which the property rights passed from father to husband. The most striking examples of this were seen in honour killings, killings committed in the name of honour, within the framework of the old penal code. In the new penal code, these crimes are grouped under crimes against sexual freedoms, which indicated that the state recognized that people have sexual immunity. The current government tends to ignore all kinds of violence, be it psychological, physical or sexual, a woman is subject to within the family in order to protect the ‘family institution’. They ignore the individual rights of women since they define their role in the family only as wives and mothers. However, as women learn about their rights, they no longer accept being subjected to this violence. Divorce rates are also increasing accordingly. Women’s movement is spreading faster and faster in Turkey in the last 40 years. During these years women’s research centres have been founded in universities, and there are centres by women’s organizations almost in every city. Women take to the streets and make themselves heard on March 8ths and November 25ths despite the police violence. Women are growing their movement consciously, knowing what they want. There have been disagreements about the Istanbul Convention even within the government itself. I want to have hope for the next ten years. We will continue to resist.' 

Lawyer Canan Arın, among the icons of the women’s fight for rights and equality in Turkey, has taken place in the second wave feminist movement which started during the 1980 martial law in Turkey, and since then has fought against male violence, contributing to the development of policies on this issue and to the changing of policies in favour of women. Arın, who took part in the foundation of Kadın Adayları Destekleme Derneği (Association for Supporting Women Candidates) and İstanbul Barosu Kadın Hakları Uygulama Merkezi, (Women’s Rights Application Centre of Istanbul Bar Association) is also one of the founders of Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation. The feminist lawyer, awarded the Bruno Leoni Award due to her brave work on women’s rights in Turkey, fights for enabling women to have free and independent lives, as she works on misogynist policies, the relationship of these policies with femicide, and on maintenance rights of women.  At this point, women need to expand their present rights and take their existing rights under protection in order to establish a life away from the gender-based discrimination and male violence, according to Arın, who thinks that we need to teach gender equality to children at an early age in order to wage an organized and informed fight for women’s rights. These days, Arın is delivering her opinions, attending various television shows and fighting with all her power, along with all women’s organizations in Turkey, to keep the Istanbul Convention untouched. Arın, who has been fighting for women’s rights and women’s self-determination for more than 40 years, has been awarded the 2021 Anne Klein Woman Award of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Hacer Foggo

'Women’s poverty does not imply only a lack of income and physical resources, but at the same time the state of being powerless on the streets and at home. The main reasons for this are gender roles, domestic inequality and inequality in education. In these times, standing up to the future-anxieties of women and powerlessness created by poverty, to the growing hatred at home and on the streets due to the pandemic, poverty violence and inequality, is not about “aid, charity,” but we organized a solidarity movement aiming to make structural inequality known, reduced and eventually eliminated. We reached the mother who collected food from dumpsters because she could not access food and who diapered her baby with a plastic bag because she could not buy nappies, we reached a girl who could not access remote education because she did not have a tablet, we reached a 65+ garbage collector woman who had no income because she had to stay at home, we stood in solidarity with a housekeeper who was sent home on unpaid leave. The founders of “Deep Poverty Network”, of the solidarity we initiated against social injustice and inequality with Covid-19, were, once more, 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.'

Human Rights advocate, activist and writer Hacer Foggo, based on the idea that poverty is a human rights violation, tackles neglected problems. The activist, who has been working for many years on women and children in poverty specific to the Roma, has fought against the urban transformation in Sulukule and Küçükbakkalköy. Foggo, who has organized the foundation of Roma Rights Forum of Turkey, (ROMFO) has supported the opening of several centres where Roma women and children could get an education; and these centres have aimed at empowering the participants by providing family communication, literacy, teaching support and vocational trainings. Foggo, who is a board member of Open Society, is also the founder of Çimenev Arts and Science Centre that aims to develop, within the scope of the foundation, the capacities of young people, women and children from various backgrounds, in areas such as education, civil society awareness, social entrepreneurship and technology. She started a campaign with the hashtag #EvindenDeğiştir (#ChangeFromHome) in the course of the pandemic since families with daily and precarious work, and in particular women and children, have been facing major problems having access to food, so as to provide them access to basic rights such as health, education, clothing and psychological support; and she enabled, by setting up the Deep Poverty Network, (Derin Yoksulluk Ağı) to have basic needs be sent directly from the supporters to the families. In 2015, with her struggle for Roma rights, Foggo was entitled to be one of the three people to receive support from Ashoka, the world’s first and largest network of social entrepreneurs. She also a study-research book “Kırmızı Püskül” (Red Tassel) published by Çivi Yazıları Yayınevi (Çivi Yazıları Publishing House). 

Özge Akbulut

'I am a materials engineer, and I make breast models. Women’s access to breast-conserving surgical techniques affects the postoperative process positively. Surgeons need training to develop their skills and acquire breast-conserving techniques. There are 1.7 million breast cancer cases in the world annually; half of these cases occur in geographies where breast-conserving techniques cannot be applied due to the lack of training. The breast model we designed offers an accessible and reliable training platform. More than a thousand surgeons in many parts of the world have been trained on this model. On the other hand, early diagnosis is the most important tool to tackle breast cancer and we emphasize woman’s prioritization of her own health in our awareness campaign.' 

Özge Akbulut is an Associate Professor at Sabancı University, Istanbul. She received her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at Sabancı University in 2004. Her PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009) focused on cost-effective fabrication of biomolecular devices and surface science. She continued her studies as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, (2009–2011) on developing tools/techniques for resource-limited settings. Her main research interests are silicone-based composites and rheology modifiers for additive manufacturing and the cement industry. In 2014, 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. Dr. Akbulut’s work has been shortlisted for the Newton Chair’s Prize in 2020 as well.

Pınar Öncel

'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. The next ten years is our last chance to create a sustainable, restorative culture, and to change the exploitative relationships we have with each other and the ecosystem, in order not to pass the point of no return in Climate Change, and the role of women in this struggle is critical. We are now a part of a new struggle in which we understand that the problems are systematic, and that they cannot be dealt with independently under separate headings such as those of women, children, environment and animal rights. In the last decade, we see more and more women taking action for change in science, business, politics and civil society; it is not difficult to foresee that this number will increase exponentially in the upcoming period and particularly the young generation will take the lead.'

Pınar Öncel, one of the founders of Sürdürülebilir Yaşam Film Festivali (Sustainable Life Film Festival) and, is a designer and sustainability consultant, focused on facilitating change by creative solutions, and building resilience in the face of the complex problems we encounter. She designs and runs, together with Tuna Özçuhadar, sustainability training and capacity building workshops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from METU (Middle East Technical University), and a master’s in “Strategic Leadership for Sustainability” from Blekinge Tekniska Högskola (Sweden) The Sustainable Life Film Festival (Sürdürülebilir Yaşam Film Festivali) (SYFF) held since 2008, offers its audience a selection of documentaries and short films from different countries that present inspirational solutions to the global environmental, anthropogical and economic problems. 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. Öncel states that they have designed the Sustainable Life Film Festival, launched in 2008, as a means of change; and that this impact-oriented festival, with its participatory format integrating local stakeholders into the process, and offering a selection of documentaries with a holistic approach and creative solutions which arouse empathy by appealing to the heart, has an important role contributing to the social and cultural change for sustainability in Turkey. 

Prof. Fatmagül Berktay

'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. In the last few decades, we identified in detail our needs, our anger, our hope and our dreams for the future. We broke our silence; we ran out of our patience. We are tired of lamenting our pain. We are tired of vague promises and of waiting. We are thirsty for action, for dignity and joy. We no longer want to be satisfied with just being patient and surviving.” * Indeed, women did achieve a lot in the last century, but achievements by women are fragile. As a matter of fact, some of them are in danger today, but the global women’s movement, of which women in Turkey are proudly a part, does not and will not give up the fight and vigilance. After all, I believe that the 21st century will be the century of women.'   

* Women’s Global Strategies Meeting Declaration, The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

Political scientist, academician and author, Prof. Dr. Fatmagül Berktay, has worked on the problematic of Turkey’s democratization process, contemporary political theory; on the status of women and women’s movements in Turkey and in the world; on religion and gender issues. Berktay, who takes a feminist perspective on political science, taking an active role in women’s movement with her activist identity, has many articles and book chapters, published nationally and internationally, on political science and women’s studies. Her book “Women against Monotheistic Religions,” published under the name of “Women and Religion” in Canada, is one of the five works selected from Turkey within the scope of the Fragen Project, that is supported by the European Union, aiming to collect important texts of the feminist movement.  Berktay, who has been a director at the Istanbul University Women’s Problems Research and Application Centre, has also represented Turkey in various forums including the United Nations and the European Union, since she served as an advisor in the state ministry responsible for women’s issues. Stating that the fight for gender equality is a part of the general fight for democracy against all kinds of discrimination, Berktay underlines that women’s rights are very fragile, and the most easily taken away rights are those given to women. She emphasizes that the fight for women’s rights is an unfinished business and that women have to struggle and win this fight continuously, over and over again.

Rümeysa Çamdereli

'10 years ago, we could not talk of Muslim feminist movement. We were women following a tradition but who tried to say new things and intended to construct new structures. 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 doing our best to foster solidarity. I think that a process, in which the voices of different subjectivities like ours are heard more and in which these subjectivities become more visible within feminism so that it grows, awaits us. Or so I hope.'

Rümeysa Çamdereli who defines herself as “Muslim, feminist, musician, mother,” continued her studies in Istanbul University Women’s Studies Master Program, after graduating from Boğaziçi University’s Computer Engineering Department. 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. Rümeysa, who is interested in every genre of music from folk music to rock, plays the electric guitar, teaches, composes and frequently performs. Emphasizing that being on the stage as a Muslim woman might inspire other Muslim women, she states that her goal is to show to them that they can also do it. Rümeysa remarks that people, especially men, whom she thinks are of the same religious belief, usually have a reaction to her as a covered woman making music, and she states that she tries to continue doing what she knows is right in the way she knows is right, sustaining her belief in Allah, in spite of people’s gradually intensifying sense of entitlement and of putting others in place.

Seben Ayşe Dayı

'I am Seben, 31 years old. I am a journalist and an anthropologist. 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. Now I would like to tell you about Bağımsız Yaşam Hakkımız: (Our Right for Independent Life) Wild TURKEY meetings in which we participated as 30 disabled women from Turkey in November 2019, that was perhaps one of the most unique experiences, and about two sentences that I heard for the first time in those meetings, making me say “how could this happen!” even in an area which I thought I so well mastered.'     

'When deaf women are subjected to violence, they cannot file a complaint because they cannot find a sign language interpreter.'

'In order to prevent sexually abused women with mental disabilities to receive basic sexual education, they describe the situation as a game of husband-hood.'  

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…'

Journalist, educational anthropologist and disability rights advocate Seben Ayşe Dayı, is an individual with cerebral palsy. Dayı, having started special education and physical therapy at a young age, studied journalism from which she graduated with a first-class degree, with a scholarship, and then completed a master’s degree in educational anthropology. Stating that her aim is to make sure that children do not marginalize people with disabilities and respect differences, Dayı dreams of a society in which the disabled are not segregated but normalized, and emphasizes that in order to achieve this, at first, the perspective of people should be corrected. According 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. In addition, she underlines that more disabled people should be involved in disability policies. Dayı, who with her social initiative Erişilebilir Her Şey, (Everything Accessible) offers coaching, educational services and solutions to everyone who wants to take a step into a more accessible life, starting from cultural institutions, venues, events and festivals, works also as an expert in Eğitimde Engelli Hakları (Disability Rights in Education) designed to generalize inclusive education.

Sema Kaygusuz

'In the last 10 years, 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. Powerful concepts, minor thinking methods against major cultural norms, began to be rapidly renewed. For example, many women know and use the concept of mansplaining today. In other words, the women's movement went beyond being a political, organized volunteer activity undertaken by certain groups, and got in touch with individuals and their everyday life. It is no longer easy to predict where and how the women's movement will manifest itself. Every power construct, big and small, from domestic affairs to the public, the governance and the judiciary, will soon become a subject of women’s language big time. Culture has a lot to suffer from us.'

Writer Sema Kaygusuz, who has been awarded many national and international prizes with her innovative and experimental body-of-work, is among the universal representatives of contemporary literature thanks to her skilfully constructed literary language. The writer, who does not aim at entertaining the readers and giving them a good time, deals in her works, that focus on nature and humanity, with situations that unsettle and encourage the reader to question. The stories of lonely women come to the forefront in Kaygusuz’s works; these women who fight for their choices and try to resist life, somehow pay the price of freedom. The writer, in her article for the Libération Newspaper’s series on “Being a woman in a Muslim country”, has remarked that the question of being a woman in a Muslim country indicates a deep-rooted Islamophobia as she emphasizes the anti-secular, discriminatory and orientalist nature of this question. The book "Gaflet-Modern Türkçe Edebiyatın Cinsiyetçi Sinir Uçları" (Hamartia – The Nerve-endings of Modern Turkish Literature), 2019, compiled by Sema Kaygusuz and Deniz Gündoğan İbrişim, highlighting through feminist values various forms of hamartia in literary texts, discusses how sexist discourse is produced by literature. Kaygusuz has remarked that a feminist reading decodes the masculine tools of domination which infiltrate and sneak into texts, and that in the future no book would be read neglecting feminism, and that it would be incomplete if done so.