Europe’s parliamentary elections are expected to end this weekend with a surprising first: The first-ever member elected from a feminist party to the European Parliament. Less surprising is the likely MEP’s country of origin, Sweden. The bastion of gender equality has a nine-year-old feminist political party, the Feminist Initiative (which also has outposts in Germany and France), and it is on track to secure the 4 percent of the country’s vote necessary to send a representative to the EU’s legislative body. At the top of the party’s batting order is Soraya Post, 57, a longtime human rights activist who spoke to the Cut from Stockholm, where she’s wrapping up her campaign.
This is your first parliamentary campaign. How’s it going?
We’ve been campaigning in house meetings. Because we are a small party we don’t get the government money to run our campaign. So we had given out information saying, If you are interested [in listening] to our politics with 15 other people at your home or some place, we will come. This is how we have been running our campaign. We have been with the people.
Sunday is the last day to vote and then at 11 in the evening we will have the results. I expect to be an MEP, as it now looks very, very good. I expect to be the first elected MEP from the Feminist Initiative and the first Swedish Roma woman — in your country we’re called gypsies — representing a political party.
What got you involved in the Feminist Initiative?
I entered the party as a member in November 2013, when I was asked if I would consider it — to be nominated as a candidate to the European Parliament. I have been a human rights activist and strategist for many years, internationally and nationally, with a special focus on Roma rights.
The Roma population in Europe, which is 15 million people, is very excluded from society. I was born in Sweden — my family has been in Sweden for hundreds of years — but I was living as a second-class citizen because of my ethnicity. When my mother was in the seventh month of her third pregnancy (after having me and my brother), she had a forced abortion and forced sterilization only because of her ethnicity. She was 21. The Roma population is the largest, most marginal group in Europe for which human rights are not existing at all. The situation for Roma is even worse in Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary — it’s really, very, very bad.
At the same time, the real right-wing, Nazi, Fascist parties are growing very fast in Europe. For me, it is a great honor to represent the feminist party. We’re not the only women in Parliament, but we’ve taken a clear stand for gender equality and equality for homosexual people. We have been very, very clear as the force against racists and Fascists in Europe. We want to change the agenda in the Democratic Parliament to be gender equal at all levels. We want our feminist dimension to be an integral and natural part in all processes. Our priority is that feminist perspective increases in all these political areas, including the budget, and we want to develop the democracy in a way that is based and grounded in human rights. That all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. It’s the first article of the Declaration of Human Rights.
Is the popularity of the Feminist Initiative a reaction to the growing right-wing movement?
Yes. The feminists are the greatest enemy of the Fascists. They want women to stay in the kitchen and raise their kids, and for the girls to be raised up to serve the men. This is their politics.
It will be part of my work to raise awareness for more women in more countries to get active in feminist policy so we can create our own group in the European Parliament. This is part of our mission, to encourage other women to create a feminist political party in their own country and run as a candidate in their own party. So what we are doing, my dear? We are creating history in the world.
How have other political parties failed women? Why a separate feminist party?
All of the Swedish parties say they are feminist. But they have a tradition of 100 years, and they haven’t been very successful. I think it might not have been a priority, not real political will. It looks good on paper. We think the good words on paper need also to be in practice. We don’t want to wait anymore. We’ve had enough. We don’t want more than the men; we just want equality. We want to share the responsibility, the power, the representation. We want equal salary for the same work, you know? The opportunity for more women to get out and to work and have their own money. And the women who are at work need to get equal money, which they do not right now.
Even in Sweden?
Even in Sweden.
What is the role of men in the Feminist Initiative?
The same as the women! I don’t think there is a man on the list of candidates for the EU Parliament, but there are some men who are Feminist Initiative candidates at the national parliament.
What will you do after you win on Sunday?
The first thing I will do when I get the election results — besides celebrating with my party members, of course — is to call my children, and I will shout out, Yes! I have four adult children, and my family suffered for many years with me just being an activist. I have really been running in the political corridors to make my opinion known and to try to push to improve the Roma situation. It’s why I became a politician: I have to be in the rooms where decisions are made. I only have one life! I have to use my full potentiality.