“I present this medal to all the women who are oppressed, killed, harassed, subjected to violence and raped,” said Yasemin Adar after winning a gold medal at the World Wrestling Championships in Paris, the first female Turkish wrestler to do so.
Yasemin’s proud father watched his daughter receive her medal with tears in his eyes. Now he wants to erect a statue of his daughter in their city.
The father-daughter relationship is one of the most significant aspects of a girl’s life. They look to their dad for support and inspiration. A strong father’s support leads a daughter to develop a good sense of self, and more confidence in her abilities. Studies suggest that daughters whose fathers are involved in their lives are more likely to work hard at school and be successful in science and sports. According to a 2015 Girl Scouts report, 68 percent of teenage girls interested in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) say their fathers play a key part in encouraging them.
The best and most recent example of this is the Saudi student Sara Alrabiah, who won a top award at NASA’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in a competition that brought together 1,700 researchers. Sara said the secret of her success was her father, who always believed in her and never stopped trusting in her abilities. Sara shattered the stereotypes, and defied those small-minded people who insist that “women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, and they are less intelligent.”
What excites me more than the daily political ups and downs or cheap political rhetoric is the courage of these young women who struggle in a patriarchal world to make a difference in almost every field from economics to politics, from education to culture.
It is the strong fathers who bring out the best in strong women, despite all the obstacles society places in their way. The stories of Yasemin and Sara reminded me of the movie Dangal, the story of the former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his two wrestler daughters in their quest for glory at the Commonwealth Games in the face of female oppression in India.
Three inspiring stories show that the relationship with her father is one of the most significant aspects of any girl’s life
Such oppression, sadly, is not limited to one country or two. Today, even in the most developed countries, there is almost daily violence against women. In my own country, Turkey, at least 173 women were killed by men in the first five months of 2017 compared with 137 in the same period of 2016, according to a report released by a women’s rights organization.
Another young woman who hit the headlines this week was Pelin Aslantas, a bus driver in the northwestern Edirne province of Turkey, after Ivanka Trump shared her inspiring story on her official Twitter account on Tuesday.
“Check out Pelin’s story as the first female bus driver in Edirne, Turkey from @UN Women ‘From where I stand’ series,” the US president's daughter tweeted, attaching the article Pelin wrote for the UN Women website.
Pelin is the only female bus driver in the city, among 202 men. She learnt how to drive in her father’s 4x4 when she was 10, smashing gender stereotypes. Again, we see the role of a father in a woman’s life, men who always encourage and give value to their daughters.
So here is a message for every father in the world, in whatever country. Trust and believe in your daughters, and you can create heroes.
• Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Twitter: @SinemCngz