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Feminist leader to take sick leave for exhaustion

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Feminist leader to take sick leave for exhaustion
Sissela Nordling Blanco at Stockholm's City Hall. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT
11:31 CEST+02:00
One of the leaders of the feminist party which came close to entering parliament in last year's Swedish election is set to take a break from politics following exhaustion symptoms, a spokesperson announced on Friday. But party figurehead Gudrun Schyman has told The Local that she will stay on.

Feminist Initiative co-party leader Sissela Nordling Blanco will also take a break from her work as group leader of the party in Stockholm's local council, for which it scored an unprecedented 4.64 percent of the capital's vote in September's elections.

“She has worked very hard. We are all volunteers and at the same time you have to try to make a living. It's hard work. She ran a fantastic election campaign in Stockholm and she now needs to rest to be able to assume her new responsibilities,” Feminist Initiative founder and co-leader Gudrun Schyman told The Local on Friday.

Despite narrowly missing out on seats in parliament, the Feminist Initiative party has been making headway in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia in the past years through a massive grassroots campaign, which has received support from among others Abba legend Benny Andersson.

Nordling Blanco is the second Swedish political leader to take sick leave in less than a year. The leader of the nationalist Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, returned to the helm of his party earlier in April after six months of sick leave for exhaustion.

But Schyman, who is Sweden's most high-profile feminist politician, said that the two situations are vastly different.

“I think it is difficult to make that comparison. We have been working for 10 years and we have very great ambitions. It is difficult when you're part of a volunteer campaign such as ours. There are several people within our organization who have had to take a break and then got back to work after that,” she said.

“You cannot compare this to the Sweden Democrats, which are represented in parliament and have resources. In their case, it's about a single individual who has faced great pressure and threats for a long period of time. You shouldn't make any parallels between them, the situations are completely different,” she added.


Feminist Initiative leaders Gudrun Schyman and Sissela Nordling Blanco. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Still, Nordling Blanco's announcement is likely to spark no more debate in Sweden than Åkesson's time away from politics. His sick leave was widely reported in Swedish media, but few questioned the fact that a political leader should take time off.

READ MORE: Why nobody cares if a Swedish party leader is off sick

And Schyman, a recovering alcoholic who has publically fought many of her own demons, told The Local that she finds the Swedish political climate in general more accepting than in many other countries.

“Yes, and [going on sick leave] is nothing you do easily. People try to make it work without taking time off, but there is a limit and I think it is good that you as a politician are able to use those social safety nets we have,” she said.

“There is a way in Sweden of looking at politics as something that is supposed to be for human beings who are meant to be able to have a life. In many other parts of the world there's more of an elitist view of politics,” she added.

Nordling Blanco will be on sick leave until August 2nd. Her colleague Gita Nabavi will take the reins in Stockholm City Hall in her absence, starting April 27th. Meanwhile, Schyman will run the party's national branch on her own.

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