Social Entrepreneur Empowers Women and Girls through Soccer In Turkey

Using soccer as a tool to help women and girls discover their inner strength and unleash their potential, Kiraz Öcal is carving a path toward a better future in Turkey. Ranked 130 out of 156 countries on the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, Turkish women face a number of challenges, including gender-based violence and discrimination in all sectors of society, including sports. While soccer is the most common sport in Turkey and in the world, the rate of licensed female players in the country is just one percent. Kiraz recognized the blatant discrepancies, and aspired to make a difference. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and a Master of International Human Resource Management from Middlesex University in London, where she wrote a thesis on sustainability and diversity management. After presenting the results at various scientific congresses, Kiraz returned to Turkey to apply the advanced techniques she learned in the field.

While thinking about social development, Kiraz decided that soccer could effectively generate conversations around gender-equality in Turkey. In 2014, she became a volunteer for Kızlar Sahada (Women on the Field), a social enterprise that empowers women and girls of all ages through soccer. Kızlar Sahada organizes soccer schools for girls, tournaments for high school students and adult women, and leadership and social development camps for mixed groups of girls and boys. In 2018, the organization was a finalist in the category of “Best Women’s Football Initiative” at the World Football Summit Industry Awards in Madrid. That same year, Kiraz was officially named co-founder of Kızlar Sahada, which continues to be the only women’s soccer platform in Turkey that offers sustainable solutions for social development and gender equality. In 2019 the Turkish Olympic Committee granted them the “Fairplay Award.”

Through her GSMP experience, Kiraz hopes to increase her knowledge of international programs, sharpen her leadership skills to expand her network, and learn how to gain institutional support for her projects. For GSMP: Empowering Women through Sports 2021, Kiraz will be mentored by Paula Goldfarb Resh, Brand Purpose Manager and Romina Bongiovanni, Head of Global Communications at New Balance, and their team in Boston, Massachusetts.

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