Rumeysa Kadak: Taking Delight In The Turkish Dream

STAND UP, BE HEARD

Rumeysa Kadak: Taking Delight In The Turkish Dream

Turkey’s youngest lawmaker – only 22, scarf-sporting and female wants to pursue her dream of empowering the nation’s youth.

While many 22-year-olds are still trying to figure out what next in terms of work and studies, Rumeysa Kadak made history by being Turkey's youngest female lawmaker when she was elected into the Parliament following the country's 2018 general elections.

"It's really beyond my imagination to be where I am today,” says Kadak who says she has zero desire to become a politician prior to a chance meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The English graduate from Marmara University caught the attention of Erdogan during a debating championship in 2017. She joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and was named Central Executive Board member the very same year - seen as part of Erdogan's efforts to inject fresh faces and to revitalise the party with more female and young members ahead of the 2019 local elections. 

"The platform has changed, my title has changed, but my passion - to make people happy - that did not change."

“I have always been more of an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) person. I participated in at least five NGOs and worked on various projects to help the community."

“But I feel the same satisfaction today at the Grand National Assembly (parliament) -  representing the people as I did when I was doing my NGO work," says the Istanbul parliamentarian.

"The platform has changed, my title has changed, but my passion - to make people happy - that did not change."

While being a politician was never part of her plan, Kadak, an education advocate, had honed a strong set of leadership qualities during her studies that helped prepare her to take on the job as a parliamentarian.

She served as deputy head of the Marmara's university's student council. Kadak was also a member of NGO Meridyen Association's Youth Branch that runs academic and youth initiatives. 

“What it means to be a member of parliament is the opportunity to reach more people. So, the projects we do can see bigger results," says Kadak, adding that she will prioritise education and youth projects during her tenure as a parliamentarian, including fostering collaborative efforts with like-minded countries like Malaysia.

Turkish Lawmaker Rumeysa Kadak - Malaysia and Turkey can collaborate to empower youth

She admits to facing challenging prospects being a novice in a dynamic Turkish political scene but hopes her genuine aspirations can be an inspiration to the young, particularly women.

“The fact that the president chose a young activist, an ordinary person with no political connection to be in his team - that means a lot," says Kadak of Erdogan. “I have worked with him very closely in educational and youth projects for the past year. I am glad he gave me the opportunity to be a voice for the young people in the country,” she adds.

Turkish Lawmaker Rumeysa Kadak - The young has a responsibility to prove their worth

“Five years ago, it was hard to imagine an MP who is a woman and wearing a scarf (in parliament). It is impossible to imagine an MP who is younger than 25-years-old. This is so new."

"It’s a challenge but it’s our responsibility to prove we deserve to be there.”

The minimum age to run for Turkish parliamentary elections was only lowered from 25 to 18 in 2017.

"Yes, there are challenges. But I don’t want to be treated differently. I want everyone to remember me because of the work I do for the community - not as the youngest MP or female MP."

 “It’s going to take some time for older people to believe in you. We need to show them that you really care about the issues and you are ready to serve the people. It’s a challenge but it’s our responsibility to prove we deserve to be there,” says Kadak.

Rumeysa shares she has a ‘Turkish Dream’ - and that is to empower youth to be bolder, and be more involved in decision-making processes. 

Turkish Lawmaker Rumeysa Kadak wants young people to courageous and speak up

“There’s a whole list of what I want to achieve in Turkey! I want every young person to be more courageous to fulfill their passion and dreams. Just go on the stage, take the mic and take action."

“Take the risk before it’s too late. I know there are limitations but if they don’t take action, they are going to lose the chance and the world indirectly loses a potential,” she says.