By UN Women – Merve Erbay, 21, became the first woman firefighter in the Turkish Parliament after outperforming competitors in the firefighting exam. In her own words, Merve shares…

“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.”

Lead image courtesy of UN Women/Ebru Ozdayi Demirel

This story previously appeared on UN Women and is republished with express permission in partnership with Women You Should Know. UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. For more information, visit Follow on Facebook and Twitter.