Turkish woman blazing a trail in ‘men’s firefighting job'

Turkish woman blazing a trail in ‘men’s firefighting job'

Turkish woman blazing a trail in ‘men’s firefighting job

A Turkish woman from the Aegean province of İzmir has become a firefighter, which is generally considered to be men’s job in the country. Devrim Özdemir, who became one of the first women to put on a firefighter’s uniform in Turkey, told her story to AFP for a news series for International Women’s Day on March 8

“In the beginning, my family told me: ‘Stop, you won’t succeed, this is a job for men’,” said Özdemir, who did not heed the advice.

In 2008, she entered the job.

“Today, everyone supports me, they have confidence in me,” says the 37-year-old.

Assigned to a fire and rescue brigade in the western city of Izmir, she has started a trend. Now there are 51 women firefighters, though they are still a small portion of the 1,200-strong force.

“Today I am a firefighter who stands beside people in their difficult times,” she says, of her motivation. 

And sometimes the firefighting itself can be physically tough.

“It has been difficult at times, for example on interventions that require physical strength. I also faced challenges in carrying all our equipment, but apart from that, I never had any trouble.”    

Özdemir encourages young women to persevere in the male-dominated profession and points out that there is pay equality.

“For me it is important, we could have received less money for the same job, but no, we have the same salary.”     

Her enthusiasm, determination and pride in her profession also inspires youngsters, like her six-year-old son -- instead of reading him bedtime stories she tells him about her work.

“I’m a heroine to my son, it’s an incredible feeling,” she says, smiling, and adding proudly: “He, too, wants to become a firefighter.”