Who is Huriye Göncüoğlu Bodur and what does she do?
Huriye holds many positions across a variety of sectors, focussing her work in Turkey but also being active in the broader European network. She is currently a lecturer at the University of Ege, as well as being a board member of the organisation she co-founded – The Women in Fisheries Society. In her work, Huriye strives to empower women in the fishing industry, enacting system wide change. Through her work, she highlights that women have always played a significant role in Turkish fishery and that this fact can no longer be overlooked.
“Fishing is an old profession. Men and women have been working side by side for many centuries but even today, fishing is still considered to be a man’s job. Therefore, the whole sector is designed to target them only”
Huriye seeks to challenge the notion that fishing is a male-dominated profession. She is working directly with fisher-people, building relationships that enable her work and helping to transform the sector: “I am always among the fishers. I am eating with them, I go fishing with them. I trust them and they trust me.” She is driven by her belief that there is a need to change the system. She believes in the importance of empowering women involved in fisheries to address gender inequality and create a sustainable marine economy. Huriye has been actively involved with ASHOKA. Through their global network, Huriye learnt about social entrepreneurship and was provided with the knowledge and inspiration to establish her own social enterprise.
What is the biggest obstacle Huriye has encountered?
The biggest obstacles that Huriye encountered were the patriarchal familial and social structures deeply engraved in Turkey’s society. In 2007, Huriye travelled village-to-village in attempt to engage with the fishing communities. In every village, she first had to first talk to the head-man of the village and then the head of a family. Only then, she was able to talk to women. She recalls a time when she had to wait four days before she was able to speak to a single woman. The patriarchal system is reinforced by lack of formal education and access to information. Huriye works to address this by providing women with education and spaces to gather and exchange knowledge.
What does she consider to be her biggest success?
She considers her biggest achievement to be setting up The Women in Fisheries Society. Through this organisation, she has been able to empower women in both their professional and personal life and to create a self-sustainable community.
“We worked together a lot, we fought a lot and the biggest achievement would be that women grew strong enough to stand up for themselves. Now, they gather locally but also around Turkey, the biggest success is the continued solidarity”
She is also very proud of The Society’s new microfinancing and income supplement programmes. These initiatives also work towards achieving gender equality and empowering women, especially in the context of Covid-19.
What does Huriye see for the future?
Huriye is passionate about continuing the work she is currently engaged with – empowering as many women as possible in all aspects of the fisheries sector. She hopes that The Women in Fisheries Society can continue and expand the work they are doing, having as big an impact as possible. The microfinance programme she is working on is just one area where she sees a particularly large potential and is excited to see what impact it can have in promoting gender equality.
What is her advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Huriye acknowledged how challenging it can be to start a social enterprise but she believes the key to success is having faith in oneself.
“Don’t give up, trust your initiative and most importantly, trust yourself”
She also highlighted that there is no one right way of starting a venture or being in charge. Women do not have to take on male personas or adopt a male-oriented leadership style in order to establish any enterprise.
“A more collective and encompassing leadership is important in addressing and solving problems”