“I think what I am doing now is the most important time in my career,” Schyman says. “I want to introduce a new dimension in politics, which is feminism as an ideologically independent political platform. This has never been done before.”
Schyman became involved in politics in the 1970s, when, while studying social work at university, she also protested in peace and anti-nuclear war movements. In 1977, she joined the Left Party and with them worked in both local and national parliament. In 1993, she became party leader, a position she held until 2003 when she left to found the Feminist Initiative.
Although the party didn’t win a seat in the 2006 Swedish national elections, Schyman says she hopes it can initiate change at the EU Parliament.
“I would like to see an equal society, which means everyone has the same possibility, same rights, same power to be able to create your own life,” Schyman says. “This is a question of human rights. We are developed enough to create human rights, not only for a group of men, but for women.”
She says women face discrimination in many realms of society. In parenthood, for example, they are often responsible for raising children instead of sharing responsibilities with men. They are often left with no choice but to stay at home because full day-care services are not available.
Women also face struggles in the workplace, she says, as men typically have more power in labour markets and higher pay cheques. Women are subjected to increased levels of violence, and typically don’t hold chief positions in enterprises and government.
She says Sweden deserves credit for being a leader in workplace equality, as the government has nearly equal gender representation, but there remains room for change.
“The prime minister, finance minister, foreign minister, and military minister are men,” Schyman explains. “The ‘hard questions’ are still dealt with by men. Women deal with social welfare, education questions. There are also still big salary gaps between genders that haven’t changed in the last 30 years.”
If elected she says she will work to improve women’s rights and equality for Swedes and people living across the EU. Other political parties have class structures as their base, she says, so their outlook on issues is that realities for men are realities for everyone.
“Discrimination is growing in Europe,” Schyman says. “This has to be challenged by politicians who aren’t afraid to speak out and are used to dealing with men with power, and that’s me.”