A team of 30 people, 7 panels, 10 workshops, 17 trainers, 500 participants, 10.000 people reached on Social Media, 3 Faculties of Bahçesehir University involved, 10 NGOs, 3 Companies: these are the numbers of the first edition of the Raise Your Woice International Women’s Empowerment Festival that took place in Istanbul from 7th to 13th March 2016.

Jointly organized by Onar Istanbul and the Communication Faculty of Bahçesehir University, the Festival wanted to raise awareness of the challenges that women still face in 2016 in their civil, political, economic and gender rights worldwide. It is a project to inspire women to empower themselves, giving them the chance to express freely and stand up for themselves. The 2016’s event is over, but we are already working on the next event that will take place in 2017. Stay tuned for all the details!

In the meantime, what can you do to support the cause?

Here are 9 ways to raise your Woice!

  1. Seek collaboration, not competition

The first enemies of women are often women themselves or the fear of competition of other women.
How many times we are afraid of someone else stealing our idea or project? How many times do we keep things for ourselves instead of sharing them?

We can only have a true impact if we learn how to collaborate together, instead of competing against each other. How would things change if we endorsed other women’s success, projects and we supported each other when failing? Let’s connect and have a stronger and more powerful impact together!

  1. Involve women in decision-making process

As we discussed in the panel “Women rights and Istanbul Convention”, excluding women from decision-making processes is also causes an economic cost. Women need to be more involved in politics, they need to sit in company boards and contribute in the decision making process. Their perspective will help solve the cultural, social and economical crisis we are facing nowadays. So what can we do about it? In our own little daily lives we can make small changes that inspire a greater impact, one idea shared was to give quotas to women. If you have to choose a doctor, a dentist, etc, make sure that you are choosing women too; if you are hiring someone, make sure you hire women too.

  1. We need to involve men to tackle violence

Violence against women can only be truly eradicated by getting men involved in the solution to this problem. Men need to develop more awareness about this issue that affects millions of women around the world. Women and men need to start working together towards a common solution. A true partnership on this issue is is the only way to deeply change the current situation, otherwise we would always be segregated: “women against men”. Lets empower men to raise their voices for a world of gender equality.

  1. Travel as much as you can

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain

Education is important to know things, but life’s knowledge would be incomplete without travelling. Travel as much as you can, go and see with your own eyes what it is like. Talk to people, ask the locals, ask about their feelings, see things from another way. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, see the world with compassion and empathy. Don’t fall in the trap of just moving yourself to a new place without actually seeing and living it. Act responsibly, be supportive and then take action.

  1. Get informed and read

Like travelling, also reading widens your knowledge about a specific topic. Read a lot, consider different points of view, stay updated, take something out of what you read. Discuss issues with those around you, share your perspective and listen to the perspective of others.

  1. Start now

Start where you are and use what we have. Don’t wait to be inspired to do something, start with the resources you have right now. Join the conversations about gender based violence and women empowerment, follow key leaders in the field on social media, attend conferences, read and understand the issue, volunteer in organizations that deal with this problem. Start being a changemaker, create an impact. You don’t need to wait, your voice is powerful and strong just where you are.

  1. Pay attention to the words you choose

Maybe you have never thought about that, but words have the power to lift you up or bring you down. Don’t give space to sexism. Think twice when writing or speaking. Don’t generalize and avoid stereotypes. Always specify and keep in mind that what you are saying might be true for you and not for other people.

  1. Start in the classroom

We are exposed to gender based stereotypes since we are little within our family and at school. “Behave like a good girl”, “Don’t behave like a boy”, “You are crying like a little girl”. Or the toys and the sports we choose for our children (without letting them choose). All these words and actions have a long-lasting effect on children.

At school, teachers should be aware of gender based stereotypes. Make sure that there are no “girls” jobs and “boys” jobs. Encourage them to work together in mixed pairs.

Many teachers are actively encouraging girls into Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), all subjects that are thought to be for men only. We need more of that!

  1. Donate to NGOs and organizations

Show financial support organizations that you believe in. Find a project that inspires you and find a way to contribute. At Raise Your Woice 2016 we heard from over 10 ngos all working hard to make the world a better place, with your partnership you can help make that happen.