13 October 2017

The story of the journey from childhood dreams in Mardin-Nusaybin and Adıyaman-Gölbaşı to Istanbul…

By Birsen Çevik Akgünlü

Our heroes Nurşin and Emine

Nurşin is a passionate young girl who set her mind to go beyond the geography she lives in when she was very young. When she was 10 years old, she really wanted to have a guitar. And one day her father comes home with a guitar! Nurşin is over the moon! She immediately starts looking for a place where she can learn to play the guitar. Thus, her path crossed with the ‘GAP-Cheetos Child Development Centre’ in Nusaybin. Here, she not only learns how to play the guitar, but also gets acquainted with theatre, receives computer training and starts to spend her free time outside of school here. He became one of the regulars of the development centre until he won the Mardin Anatolian Teachers’ High School and started boarding school.

“One day I received an invitation from my former teacher at the Cheetos Child Development Centre. My heart leapt. I wonder what they had planned for us this time…”

That day, Nurşin was invited for an interview for the ‘PepsiCo Our Girls are Studying’ scholarship programme. And with this phone call, a completely different door opened in her life. During her high school and university education, she participated in many activities and trainings thanks to this programme. She sees different cities and meets PepsiCo employees. She was most impressed by the businesswomen she met. She describes her most unforgettable memory among these experiences as follows:

“In high school, I was invited by PepsiCo to the Global Women’s Summit in Istanbul. At this meeting, I had the opportunity to meet Ümran Beba. I was incredibly impressed by her career journey from international experience to senior roles! After that day, I started to dream bigger dreams when I put my head on the pillow at night!”

Nurşin is now studying Industrial Engineering at Gaziantep University. She was influenced by Gökçe Abla, an industrial engineer she stayed at during a PepsiCo event. Thanks to R&D Manager Didem Abla, whom she met at another event, she learnt about a line of business that she had never heard of and that she was very interested in.

Emine is the youngest daughter of a family of 6 children. She spent her childhood in a village in Adıyaman. Even at that age, she is very compassionate and helpful. When she was in the 7th grade, she and her two older sisters moved to Gölbaşı District of Adıyaman in order to get a better education. One day, the principal of Mikdat Sumer Secondary School, where she was studying, gave Emine a piece of news:

“Gölbaşı ‘GAP-Cheetos Child Development Centre’ officials contacted our school principal and informed him that scholarships would be given to successful female students. I participated in the interviews and then my ‘Our Girls are Reading’ adventure began. This programme not only gave me economic freedom but also a whole new world view.”

“It was a very critical experience for me to participate in the 6-day training programme organised at BÜYEM within the scope of ‘PepsiCo Our Girls Read’. During those days, they also showed us around Istanbul and introduced us to the city. I developed and strengthened both academically and socially.”

Emine is now studying at Hacettepe University Faculty of Law. She explains why she chose to become a lawyer as follows: “When I answered, ‘I want to help people, but I don’t know how to do it,’ Mrs Pelin, one of our teachers, said, ‘Then you will teach them how to fight. Law is a tool for me for this cause!”

I asked these two heroes, “Who is the most inspiring person in your life?” and their answers explain another commonality and strength of both of them very well:

Emine: “My mum! She has always been a woman who stands firmly on her own feet. Some women play an active role in society by participating in the labour force, such as the women executives I met at PepsiCo. Others, even if they cannot play an active role in business life, they make an important mark in their environment. My mother is such a person, I can say that she shaped my life. Also, my brother has a great influence on shaping my perspective on the role of women in society.’

Nurşin: “My mum too. She is a very strong woman. As a mother of 3 daughters, the place of women in society is very important for my mother. She raised us with this perspective. My family has always supported what I wanted to do. If my father hadn’t bought that guitar, maybe I would never have met PepsiCo.”

I will follow Emine and Nurşin’s journey with curiosity. Who knows, maybe they will be my guests again in another article at another stage of their lives…

And dear Mothers! You are the real heroes.

Birsen Çevik Akgünlü

13 October 2017