March 8. Today, we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women all over the world. But such accomplishments weren’t an easy road: any initiative led by women in the past demanded hard work, deeply committed people, solid campaign tactics and a persistent vision of a nearly-impossible feature — a shockwave hitting the status quo and paving the way for a world where everyone is equal.
Does this story sound familiar? It does: women’s struggle is a big inspiration for people all over the world to stand for what is right and organize in their communities, and that includes thousands of climate activists and people who, today, are facing and confronting the fossil fuel industry.
But besides being an inspiration, women are leading the climate struggle – not surprisingly as women are on the frontline against climate change. From inspiring battles against coal plants to renewable energy entrepreneurship, women in Turkey are also at the center of the climate movement. Here are three of our favorite stories:
The Women of Yırca
The villagers of Yırca reached international news when 6,000 olive trees — their source of living — were uprooted by the government to make way for another coal plant. Confrontation between villagers (led by a group of women) and private security forces took place in a day full of dramatic episodes: from villagers resisting bulldozers and removing barb-wire fences with tractors, to a tragicomical message from the local authorities telling villagers to “keep the dead trees until we figure out what to do next”. The event caused national outcry, prompting the Council of State to suspend the coal plant project.
That same day, the women of Yırca planted new olive seedlings in the field. They knew it would be decades until they could harvest olives again, but their field is now covered by the same type of tree that sustained generations — and now marks the power of people against coal. “It was the most important, the saddest and the happiest day of our lives.”
The women of Yırca went on an incredible display of resistance and these days are producing organic vegetables and even soap. Their soap is so popular that, in order to meet demand, they had to learn about running a business together. But, as they say, “by standing for the olive trees, we learned to be together”.
Math teacher Dudu Sözcüer had to wait 2,5 years before being granted a permit to setup a solar power plant in Manisa. With the bureaucracy finally navigated and the support of other female entrepreneurs, her dream has come true and she now has 2,200 solar panels producing clean, renewable energy, and selling it to the grid. Her motivation? To show that women can play a role in a business that is growing in Turkey. “Women shouldn’t be shy. When we first started, we wondered “how is this going to happen?”. But with the support of the government and with our strength, we saw that we can succeed. Don’t let anyone drain your energy away”.
Dudu’s story has inspired other two female entrepreneurs to setup solar plants in the same region. Let the sun shine for all of them!
A fearless, long time activist, Süheyla Doğan is known for her environment and cultural protection activities in her beloved Çanakkale. Along with Kazdağı Doğal ve Kültürel Varlıkları Koruma Derneği and villagers from all Çanakkale, she has been at the center of a battle against gold mining projects in pristine areas such as Havran. For years, she helped repeal the exploitation of natural resources in key areas of biodiversity. But there’s more: with 16 coal plant projects threatening to pollute and suffocate Kazdağları, Süheyla has been incredibly active in protests, recruiting supporters, giving lectures, researching legislation and representing the people and the nature of Çanakkale. And she still finds time to promote conscious consumption, and natural and traditional living!
We owe gratitude to women, leading the fight for our nature, air, land and water. Their struggle cannot be contained in a single day but this is a good day as any to refresh our reserves of inspiration to keep fighting for a better future.