All women should be financially independent

Turkey

I was one of six children in a poor, rural family from a village in Giresun, a city at the Black Sea region. None of us had the opportunity to go to school. At very young ages, boys needed to find a job and girls needed to find a husband. I got married at 16-years-old to an unemployed man in Istanbul and I had my son when I was 17. I remember the day my son was born. When the hospital took the baby hostage for days as we couldn’t pay the invoice, I realized I wouldn’t be able to earn much without a profession. I continued to hairdressing classes to get a certification with the hope to open a beauty salon. I worked in a textile factory in the morning and trained in a hair salon in the afternoon to pay for school and the expenses of my son. Then I went to school in the evenings while my neighbors were taking care of my son in solidarity.

After I got the certification and a divorce, I opened my first salon. All I had then was a plastic chair, broken table given as a charity, a big mirror and school scissors. When one day a customer asked where she could find a wedding dress, I had the idea to transform part of the salon into a shop where I would also rent bridal dressing gowns. I didn’t have savings and no bank would work with me because I had no real estate collateral or a guarantor on my side. Yet I was working long hours and investing all the money back to my business.

At first I managed to have three businesses within the same room, and within few years three shops within the same street: hairdressing salon, flower shop and bridal dress designer. Today I own two hairdressing salons, a beauty salon of four floors where she also organizes training workshops, photo studio, bridal dress show room and hall for celebration (weddings, parties, graduation, and wedding showers) in Istanbul. Now I also participate in international hairstyle contests representing Turkey.

I believe all women should be financially independent and strongly believe a woman can move the mountains, if she is empowered. For me, the biggest constraint for women’s economic empowerment is the family pressure, where woman’s role is reduced totally to motherhood and be a good wife for the husband. That is why I want to help young women to feel the power in themselves. I train young girls and women through free workshops (hairdressing, sewing and embroidery) and as of today more than 1,000 women have been awarded with a certificate and 10 of them have succeeded to open beauty salons under my guidance and mentorship.

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Entrepreneurship
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  • Tazeen Dhanani

    I got goosebumps after reading your story. Your entrepreneurial spirit is indeed moving mountains and empowering others in your community and nation! Keep going, and don't let any family or cultural pressure hold you back!

  • Tonny Okello

    Wow!! Kudos Gul Besiroglu. The endurance and sacrifice amidst all the challenges never drifted you from you dream and goal. The consistence, commitment and tireless efforts got you to achieving your goal am so proud of you and very inspired. I won't agree more with you when you said "I believe all women should be financially independent and strongly believe a woman can move the mountains, if she is empowered.​" The fuel, the road and the map to women empowerment lies within our hands, we have collaborative individaul power to drive women to empowerment and it has to start now.

  • Teresa Abila
    This is what I call Girl Power.Just astounding. Gul your story is one of its kind because you've felt the pinch of really not having a voice and now you're motivating and touching other girls lives.How great is that? When a woman is educated,she becomes independent that she can decide on her own what she likes to do to be financially stable.All she needs from the start is family's support(it's time families are engaged in awareness programmes that teach them more on the significance of educating girls, they need to listen to such stories).
  • Catherine Nyoike

    Gul, that you have empowered more than 1000 women because of the lessons learnt from the challenges you faced ,is amazing. 

  • Michel Choto

    Wow, this is very inspiring, child bride turned business woman. Well done for mentoring others and all the best in your business, may you continue inspiring and investing in more women.

  • Sejin Sasha Seo

    We have a different industry job but similar personal back ground. I have been raising my 4 years boy alone since I got divorced as soon as I got married because I knew my husband got married with me because of my saving and to obtain my country visa since he was foreigner.  He has 2 lives which i did not know when I was pregnant but thanks to my education and job i have had, i could get a divorce with him without debating and i am more than happy to work and still studying masters and raising my son. I work as a Sr HR manager so i try to recruit women who are passionate and desperate the job opportunity than man who has similar background Because I know and believe most of women has a family take more responsibility than most of man and they work harder than man usually.  So financial independence is one of the most important factor to empower women's economy. And 100 % agreed with Gul. Thanks for sharing on your story dear!! 

  • Alysia Silberg

    Gul, 

    I absolutely loved your story and am deeply inspired by your courage and tenacity. You sound like a really special person, doing incredible work and you're making the world a better place for many young women. I wish you all the luck in the world and sincerely hope that we will get to meet one day in person! Well done again!!

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