The Mentee Becomes the Mentor.

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Now at her late 20s and a role model herself, Sara became an inspiration to her own mentor, Secil, because of her self-determination to win in life against all odds. Secil, a Bogazici University graduate, started her career as an editor at Cosmopolitan magazine. She spent over 20 years in corporate communications where her career blossomed. Today, she leads a communications consultancy agency she co-founded. She also volunteers as a mentor for KAGIDER’s Women Leaders of the Future program. Secil’s role model has always been her grandmother, one of the few women who dared to work in 1920s of Turkey. Until few years ago, her grandmother was her source of inspiration and encouragement to take the next step in life. But that changed when she had met someone, a young woman who went beyond and above when she was provided with the opportunity: Sara.

Sara is the youngest of five daughters of a father who always wanted a son. It was only when her oldest gave birth to a boy that her father was happy. Like many of her peers, Sara was expected to live a certain way of life; help her mother around the house, learn cooking and cleaning, get married when she was of age and live happily ever after. However, Sara had other plans for herself. She wanted to go to college and have a career. Determined to change the lifestyle imposed on her, she studied really hard in high school and got into Bogazici University, one of the top three universities in Turkey.

Sara was nervous more than excited with this news because now, it was time to convince her father to let her go to college. And that was more difficult for Sara than getting into a top school. Sara’s father regarded college education unnecessary for girls, and even shameful. Even Sara’s acceptance from Bogazici University was enough to make his friends and colleagues to make fun of him and the way he raised his daughter. In addition, he was reluctant to send Sara to Istanbul, to a city he had never been before. But Sara was determined to challenge the perceptions towards women in Turkey and was ready to to fight for it.

With the support of her mother and older sisters, Sara’s father was convinced to visit Bogazici University’s campus. So their family of ten took the 30 hour long bus trip from Van to Istanbul. Impressed by the campus and tired of the nonstop arguments from his wife and daughters, Sara’s father finally agreed to let her go to college. Sara knew that this was her only chance to equip herself with the necessary tools to succeed in life as a woman. She didn’t waste any time to participate in professional, technology and language workshops to reach her fullest potential. That’s when she had met with “Women Leaders of the Future”, and her mentor, Secil.

Secil joined the Women Leaders of the Future program to encourage young women that nothing is beyond their reach. But after meeting Sara, she had found herself on the other side, inspired by one of them. Sara is only one out 500 young women who participated in this project. In only four days, she gained new professional skills to succeed at a job interview. But most importantly, when her mentor discovered her top-notch people skills, she recommended her to work in Human Resources, Sara decided to move forward in her career as she directed. She is now working as the Head of Human Resources in one of the largest corporations in Turkey. And, Sara’s father is so proud of her that he is advising all his friends to send their daughters to college.

Only 27 percent of women participate in the workforce in Turkey. KAGIDER works diligently to change this ratio. They encourage young women to accomplish things they didn’t think they could, or never would have even tried. Take a look at their projects and join their efforts of empowering young women and encouraging their entrepreneurship spirits.

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