From where I stand: “I was the first woman to apply for a firefighter’s job”

Merve Erbay, 21, became the first woman firefighter in the Turkish Parliament after outperforming competitors in the firefighting exam.

Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Merve Erbay. Photo: UN Women/Ebru Özdayı Demirel
Merve Erbay. Photo: UN Women/Ebru Özdayı Demirel
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It has been my dream since childhood to be in a profession that touches people’s lives. My role model was my uncle who was a firefighter at an airport. I often used to visit him there.

After graduating from the university, I started to work as a workplace nurse. One day I saw a vacancy announcement by the Parliament for firefighters and immediately applied for it. Successfully completing the examinations, and outperforming many men, I became the first woman firefighter at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA).

Initially, I faced a lot of prejudices because it was an occupation dominated by men. I was the first woman to apply for a firefighter’s job. Those who heard that there was a woman firefighter at the TGNA came to meet me.

I faced some resistance from my family as well. My mother said, “You’re a nurse, go do your own job”. But my father supported me a lot. Together with him, I broke down my mother’s prejudices.

As time passed, I started receiving positive feedback from different people.

My dream came true—now in my daily work, I can save lives. Since I am trained as a firefighter and a nurse, I work as a rescuer and can also administer first-aid.

While firefighting is traditionally known as a man’s job, women can easily do it. Strong muscles are not enough for being a firefighter. It takes good training, experience and skills.”



SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

Merve Erbay, 21, works as a firefighter at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). UN Women conducts gender-responsive budgeting training at the TGNA to ensure that the planning and budgeting practices of the Turkish Parliament promote equal opportunities for women and men, as part of the “Gender Equality in Political Leadership and Participation in Turkey” project, funded by the Swedish Development Agency. Erbay’s story shows the importance of equal opportunities for women in the world of work (SDG 8) and also SDG 5, which promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment.