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Shining the spotlight on inspiring women – Elif Shafak

“One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity.”- Elif Shafak

It is important as women that we have role models that can inspire us to achieve our goals. When I see empowered and confident women not only speaking up about issues they care about but also be listened to, I feel that much more powerful myself. When it comes to being outspoken about injustices, Elif Shafak is a woman that inspires me.

Elif Shafak is one of the most inspirational writers of our time. As a Turkish-British writer and women’s rights activist, she has tirelessly worked to give a voice to the voiceless and is an advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of speech. Her works, including 18 novels, have won a multitude of awards and been translated into 54 languages.

She was raised by her mother and grandmother in Turkey and has said that growing up in a non-patriarchal environment with these strong female influences had a positive impact. However, the two maternal figures in her life had starkly different views on what the role of a woman should be: her mother was modern and working whereas her grandmother held more traditional views. Which was right? Exploring the role of women in society has been a key aspect in both her writing and her public speaking, which she has been celebrated doing on a global stage.

Perhaps one of the most important things we can learn from Elif Shafak is how crucial it is that we are vocal on issues that we care about. She has been outspoken about the dangers of isolationism and nationalism in global politics, shining a light on particular on the disconnect between the East and the West. On a global and national scale, we should be doing more to encourage and celebrate diversity, especially in the political arena that all too often shuns it.

If you are the kind of person who likes to pick up a book, Elif Shafak’s novel ’10 minutes and 38 seconds in This Strange World’ is a dark and thought-provoking read. It explores the themes of violence against women, the massacre of Armenians, the persecution of Yazidis and the rising of religious sects within Turkey. It is an emotional and sometimes difficult read. The story is about a Turkish prostitute, Leila, who is brutally murdered at the very beginning of the novel (so this is not a spoiler). In the 10 minutes and 38 seconds after her heart stops beating, her brain continue to reflect on often painful memories.

If you would prefer to hear this amazing woman speak, below is the link to a TEDTalk, ‘The revolutionary power of diverse thought’. In it she explores how there are no binaries, not in politics, emotions or our identities. It is a personal and reflective talk, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Written by Rebecca Walker

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