Inspiring Thursday: Elif Shafak

“Many women are demanding equality, demanding justice. They want to build their own lives, build a better future for their children. But this shift in power comes with a dangerous backlash.”

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She writes in both Turkish and English and has published 18 books. Shafak is an activist for women’s rights, minority rights, and freedom of speech. She also writes and speaks about a wide range of issues that include global and cultural politics, the future of Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, democracy, and pluralism.

Shafak is a Fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). As advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice TED Global speaker. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world, and she was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Shafak was born in Strasbourg and after her parents separated, Shafak returned to Turkey, where she was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother, two women she consider inspiring for her writings. She says that she grew up with two different models of womanhood: her modern, working, educated mother and her traditional, religious grandmother. Shafak says that growing up in a dysfunctional family was difficult, but that growing up in a non-patriarchal environment had a beneficial impact on her.

Shafak holds an undergraduate degree in International Relations, a master’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies, and a Ph.D. in Political Science. She taught at various universities in Turkey, the US, and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.

“I think memory is a responsibility. We have to remember; we have to have historical awareness. By that, I mean, not the history we learn at school, but what that kind of narrative omits or erases. I should be able to learn all about erased voices and silenced voices. I think we should never lose that kind of curiosity.”

Shafak writing has always addressed minorities and subcultures, such as post-colonialism and post-feminism, and in particular the role of women in society.

She is an advocate for women’s rights, minority rights, aa well as she is very active in the field of political sciences, democracy rights and freedom of expression. Shafak is interested in Turkey’s politics and she expressed various times on the necessity to create a culture of inclusiveness, openness, human rights, and freedom of speech for each and every one in Turkey.

Shafak is also supporting numerous campaigns and she is being an activist speaker against Turkey’s decision to withdraw the Istanbul Convention.

Written by WAVE Intern Diva Adelaide Edosini


Elif Şafak • Biography (

Elif Shafak: ‘It’s a crucial moment for global feminism’ | Working in development | The Guardian


At Home With Elif Shafak: Feminism, Faith and Women’s Rights in Life & Literature (

Angelina Jolie and Elif Shafak on Turkey, Women’s Rights | Time

Photo credit: Elif Shafak: What Happens When Different Viewpoints Are Silenced? | Tri States Public Radio (