International Women’s Day

Fenerbahçe Sports Club in Turkey features pioneer women athletes on International Women’s Day

Fenerbahçe Sports Club, which joined forces with the HeForShe movement to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in sport in Turkey, hosted an event on International Women’s Day for women athletes who pioneered the establishment of women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954, and won consecutive championships between 1954 and 1961.

Date: Friday, March 8, 2019

Fenerbahce HeForShe 8 March 675x450. Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club
Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club

The event named “Fenerbahçe’s Historic Women” brought together more than 100 guests including current and former athletes and representatives of the sports club, as well as representatives from UN Women and Tüpraş, the main supporter of the Fenerbahçe-HeForShe collaboration. The event also featured a photo exhibition dedicated to the pioneer women athletes of Fenerbahçe.

Simla Türker Bayazıt, Board Member of Fenerbahçe Sports Club. Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club
Simla Türker Bayazıt, Board Member of Fenerbahçe Sports Club. Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club

“Our sports club joined the HeForShe initiative launched by UN Women to achieve gender equality; and we say, ‘We are equal together!’ and stand for a better society, and brighter future. Our club will continue to be a model for the society with its athletes to uphold zero tolerance for any form of discrimination against women and girls; and increase the presence of women and girls in all areas of sports both as athletes and fans. One of our long-term projects includes the writing of a book that tells the history of Fenerbahçe’s women athletes, to pass our values to future generations,” said Simla Türker Bayazıt, Board Member of Fenerbahçe Sports Club.

Fenerbahçe Sports Club, one of the oldest and most popular sports clubs in Turkey with a large fan base of 25 million around the world, joined forces with the HeForShe movement to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in sport. As a result of this unique collaboration, Fenerbahçe aims to set an example globally by pioneering a number of initiatives in the sports community through the “Equal Together” movement until the end of 2019. As part of the collaboration, Fenerbahçe Football Club Soccer Team will be wearing the HeForShe logo on their right arm throughout the 2018-2019 season.

Ali Koç, President of Fenerbahçe Sports Club congrats Ayten Salih who pioneered the establishment of Fenerbahçe’s women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954 for her for paving the way for women and girls in sports. Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club
Ali Koç, President of Fenerbahçe Sports Club and Ayten Salih who pioneered the establishment of Fenerbahçe’s women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954. Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club

“In 2017, by signing the Women’s Empowerment Principles, which provide guidelines to companies on empowering women in social life and business, we declared to the world that we aimed to be an inclusive business. We believe that Fenerbahçe Sports Club will be a global model for advancing gender equality and millions of Fenerbahçe fans will create unique awareness for equality in football, a domain fully-dominated by men. We hope that our effort will inspire other sports clubs,” said İbrahim Yelmenoğlu, General Manager of Tüpraş.

Zeliha Unaldı, UN Women Turkey Director a.i. and Programme Manager. Phtoo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club
Zeliha Unaldı, UN Women Turkey Director a.i. and Programme Manager. Phtoo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club

“International Women’s Day is a day when we commemorate women’s fight for equality, and we speak of what we can do for a more egalitarian world. We are happy to be here among Fenerbahçe’s female women and men athletes and see that pursuit for equality is carried into sports. We are grateful to Fenerbahçe’s pioneering women athletes for paving the way for girls and helping them realise their dreams. A club manager, a club, an athlete, a trainer, and a sports facility may change the world. And this change has already started,” said Zeliha Ünaldı, UN Women Turkey Director a.i. and Programme Manager.

Ayten Salih who pioneered the establishment of Fenerbahçe’s women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954 was invited to the stage. She delivered a speech about her career in Fenerbahçe, which included innumerable achievements.

Ayten Salih who pioneered the establishment of Fenerbahçe’s women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954. Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club
Ayten Salih who pioneered the establishment of Fenerbahçe’s women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954. Photo: Fenerbahçe Sports Club

“In 1954, the Turkey Volleyball Federation had not been established. Therefore, we played under “Sports Federation of Turkey” with our names written on the license of men for 4 years. The reason we didn't end up sticking to a single branch was the desire to do sports all year round. Fenerbahçe Sports Club has always been a step ahead of its rivals since its foundation by its commitment to and high regard for women and girls. We congratulate the club which carried the lead to further heights, and supported the HeForShe project being implemented to achieve gender equality. It is important that Fenerbahçe continues this mission today and in the future. Sports helped me to improve my self-esteem, develop leadership skills and become dedicated and persistent,” said Ayten Salih.

İnci Önen (left) and Ayten Salih, former and pioneer women athletes of Fenerbahçe who pioneered the establishment of women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954. Photo:  Fenerbahçe Sports Club
İnci Önen (left) and Ayten Salih, former women athletes of Fenerbahçe who pioneered the establishment of women’s volleyball and basketball teams in 1954. Photo:  Fenerbahçe Sports Club

“Many women athletes grew up in Fenerbahçe and earned both individual and team medals and cups for our club. However, women membership of our club is very few. Now, women have 13 percent of the seats at Higher Management Board. In 10 years, the size of Higher Management Board will reach 10,000 and women members will reach 19 percent. In the past three decades, Fenerbahçe management had only one woman member. Today, the Management Board headed by Ali Koç has 4 women members. I do hope more women take up seats and posts in management and boards, and jointly decide for Fenerbahçe’s management,” said Vefa Küçük, Chairman of Higher Management Board of Fenerbahçe.

The event was concluded with the presentation of plaques to pioneer women athletes who contributed to women and girls’ empowerment in sports and left a permanent mark in Fenerbahçe’s history. 

Fenerbahçe Sports Club aims to mobilize the public on gender equality as part of the collaboration and plans to launch initiatives to raise awareness about gender equality in the sports community's agenda. By establishing partnerships for gender equality, Fenerbahçe will invite other sports clubs in Turkey to support the HeForShe movement.