LYMEC’s First Young Liberal Women Summit: Get involved!
Written by Rhea Csordas, Member of the Writers’ Team of Libertas
Even though this year marks the 110th anniversary of International Women’s Day, there is truth in the fact that women, and especially young women, still face significant barriers, both at national and European level, when trying to get involved and later to pursue a successful career in politics.
To address this issue, LYMEC hosted the first Young Liberal Women Summit, organised by Bureau Member Laia Comerma, on 6 March 2021. We discussed together with Antoaneta Asenova, President of LYMEC, as well four Renew Europe MEPs – Samira Rafaela, Emma Wiesner, Karen Melchior and Svenja Hahn – about their personal political journeys, the main hurdles in politics for women and how we can overcome them.
“Make your voice heard!”
Antoaneta Asenova has experienced herself, especially during her candidacy as the second female LYMEC President after Svenja Hahn, that it is still often difficult for women to enter politics. Besides hurtful rumours and sexist comments, she observed that a woman’s actions are often judged by a different standard than those of a man.
Antoaneta sees LYMEC, as a liberal youth organisation, as an important opportunity for young women to become active, to network and to develop their own political identity. There are two things of central importance to her: on the one hand, she emphasises that we all should push the presence of others. On the other, she reminds us that we have already proven our eligibility to sit at the table and that we should use this opportunity to get involved and to make our voices heard.
“We need all talents, and at least half of them are female!”
Karen Melchior, MEP for Radikale Venstre (Denmark), points out a survey revealed that almost a quarter of all female party members in Denmark have already been affected by sexual harassment. Nevertheless, some parties still claim not to have this problem, which can simply be explained by the fact that it is not recognised.
Karen therefore stresses the importance of creating a safe environment in political parties or youth organisations to promote the engagement of young women. First and foremost, the Code of Conduct is crucial for this and that we react as soon as it is not respected. In addition, confidants at various levels have an important role to play. The protection and promotion of all young talents and thus feminism is neither green nor left, it concerns us all.
“What makes me successful is that I stay true to myself!”
Samira Rafaela, MEP for D66 (Netherlands), began her political engagement in the youth organisation of her party. There, she was warned from an early stage before her candidacy that the entry into politics, especially as a woman of colour, is anything but easy and that she could attract extensive media attention with her candidacy. However, she did not let that get her down and decided to run for the European parliament.
Samira acknowledges as a sad part of the truth that most cannot relate to these experiences and one often must get used to being left alone with them. Nevertheless, she is convinced that we all have so many visions to overcome traditional politics making, which are worth fighting for. Samira’s message is that young women are most successful in politics when they stay true to themselves.
“Networks have always pushed me forwards!”
Emma Wiesner, MEP for Centerpartiet (Sweden), joined her party’s youth organisation at the age of 14. After interrupting her engagement during her studies and then returning, she still felt welcome despite the changes in people and time and recognised the importance of her contacts.
Emma further emphasises the importance of one’s own network when it comes to campaigning. In her view, it is particularly crucial to work with many different characters. For example, introverts are not necessarily good communicators, but in her team, they are the most strategic thinkers in politics. In the same way, it is important for young women to identify their personal strengths, namely their five strings, and to know how they can best use them for their candidacy.
“My candidacy as LYMEC President was the best learning process of my life!”
Svenja Hahn, MEP for Freie Demokratische Partei (Germany), makes it clear that politics is not waiting for any new faces. It rather depends on young women to show their own initiative to be the change they are waiting for.
Svenja has taken exactly this to heart when she decided to run as the first female LYMEC president. During her campaign, she was often surrounded by various rumours and nasty remarks, such as that her voice would not sound kind enough. In the meantime, however, she can look back on valuable learning processes and considers LYMEC her political home, where she is grateful for the fact that women can also take on leadership positions and act as role models.
All in all, these five perspectives were able to show well that although young women still have to struggle with a multitude of hurdles when entering politics, they are not helplessly at their mercy. So, it is now up to all of us to push #lymecwomen forward and to make their voices heard!
About the author:
Rhea Csordas (DE) has been a member of JuLis and LHG since 2019. She is currently doing her Bachelor in Political Science with a focus on International Relations, for which she studied a year in the Erasmus+ programme at Sciences Po Paris. This experience initially motivated Rhea to get involved in the European Liberal Students Network.