ENVIRONMENT

Why Women Go Green

Women Make Up the Majority in the Green Party

In most political parties, except in the Green Party, men far outnumber women. Since their inception, Green Parties worldwide have boasted a disproportionately high number of women members.

In Europe, however, Green women also hold the majority of high-level leadership positions. For example, 32 out of 55 German Green Party parliament members are women. In the neighboring Netherlands, 6 out of 11 Green parliament members are women, while in Finland the ratio is 9 out of 14.

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Finnish MP Janina Andersson wants to change the world with a smile on her face. Her T-shirt reads: "I love clean water." View Larger >
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Janina Andersson campaigns on the streets of Helsinki, Finland. Her all green outfit makes her immediately recognizable as a Green. View Larger >

The word "Green" in their name might lead people to believe that Green Parties are solely concerned with environmental issues. But endorsement of grassroots democracy, sustainable development, nonviolence, gender issues, indigenous rights and social justice are all cornerstones of Green Party philosophy.

Green Parties were born from the social movements of the 1960's, and in the last thirty years they have been springing up all over the world. There are currently no Green members in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Congress or in the UK Parliament. This is in stark contrast to many countries in Europe, where official Green Parties have been making significant political inroads from their inception, with women playing pivotal roles in this success.

I.M.O.W. spoke to one of these women, Finnish MP Janina Andersson, who offers insight into, among other things, what attracted her to green politics.


Why did you choose to become a Green and run for office?

While I was in college, I had planned to start a new party with my friend. Then I learned about the Green Party, which was just taking root. Their ideals and goals reflected mine, and it felt right to join them. It was especially easy for me to become a candidate because they wanted to help young women as well as people from minority groups get into politics. As a Swedish-speaking Finn, I fit both categories.

I first ran for office in 1991, and in 1995 I got elected to Finnish Parliament. At the time, I was a young mother and I carried my three-week-old baby in tote everywhere I went. Whereas my child was a natural presence during our Green Party meetings, he caused a scandal in the Parliament. As a result, the breastfeeding became a big issue at the time. Today, my son is 13 years old and since his scandalous days in Parliament, many babies have come and gone through the Parliament. We now even have an official baby-changing room.

Could you tell us about the Finnish Green Party?

Approximately nine percent of Finns vote Green. Out of 200 members in Finnish Parliament, 14 are Greens, 9 of which are women. We have two Ministers in Parliament, both of whom are women. Our representative in the EU Parliament is also a woman.

The Greens have brought many young women into power. Today, our party has many more women than men, but this is slowly changing. We are definitely seeking gender balance among our members. However, women tend to care more for the green ideals in Finland, although young men are also beginning to share our views.

The Green Party in Finland is a result of different groups such as dedicated environmentalists, gender equity activists, peace activists and liberal politicians coming together. From the very beginning, minority rights, both ethnic and sexual, have been important, as well as gender issues. This meant that we have sometimes been seen as a woman's party. Other parties have followed suit and are today encouraging women, especially young women, to enter politics. We have been in government three times and we try to practice realistic politics without forgetting the ideals that motivate us and that have led us to enter politics.

What makes the Green Party different from other political parties in Finland?

I believe that our way of discussing things openly is what separates us from other parties. It is true that our time in government has made this openness slightly more difficult as we have become very busy dealing with day-to-day politics. We are resolutely committed to raising issues that are important to women and our view on all issues is dictated by how our decisions will end up affecting the coming generations.

We are different because we have so many women members and members of parliament. We have been lucky in that we have had many good women to choose from, but we have also always tried to have women and men equally represented in the party. We also work hard to get minority women involved in politics. We have elected many women from minority backgrounds into the city councils and in the last election we almost managed to get a Somali woman elected to parliament.

What is your greatest contribution to the Finnish Green Party?

I am good at getting people to work together. I want to show that a green life is easy and fun. I want to save the world with a smile on my face. I try to be a positive force and motivate people to work together for a better world. For example, riding a bicycle all year round instead of driving a car is good for my health, saves me money and is good for the environment. My specialty is working to save the Baltic Sea from pollution.

What is Finnish Green Party's greatest contribution to your country?

Many of the things that we have been talking about for years, such as climate change, are now being taken seriously. Energy policy and traffic policy are slowly changing, as are the way foreigners are treated in Finland. The social system is also changing at our behest. Of course, new problems are arising all the time and change is, as always, very slow, but we are working on constantly improving our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.





Comments

Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
United States

Do you think the Green Party in the United States has inspired and supported women in similar ways to its counterparts in Europe?

Michael DeLong
Michael DeLong
United States

Prior to joining the Green Party, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney had many Green loyalists working on her congressional campaigns (running as a Democrat) and was courted by them to run as a Green Party presidential candidate in 2000 and 2004. She formally joined the party in October of 2007 and has announced herself as the Green Party presidential candidate for the 2008 race.

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Deleted User

I appreciate Janina's honesty when she says: "It is true that our time in government has made this openness slightly more difficult as we have become very busy dealing with day-to-day politics."

I have always thought that being a "politician" automatically equaled giving up your ideals. The colloquial, apolitical term would be "selling out." The practice of politics and politicking, what Janina called "day-to day politics" to me meant reasoning with your mind, and not your heart. It meant growing up in a way, stopping your Peter Pan charades, becoming jaded, and grabbing the problem by the throat.

Most people get into politics because they believe in something. Because they believe that they, and they in particular, can and will do something extraordinary. Help their fellow woman and man.

But then they sit down behind their lovely, over-sized, laquered wood desks and are bombarded with constituents wanting different things, lobbies they owe favors to, intrigues, money issues, controversies. Often, they become petty officials, disillusioned, but not realizing it. Slowly getting out of touch with the reality on the ground, slowly forgetting the ends, and concentrating on the means.

That is why I have always chosen direct activism instead of representative politics. But I think I have been wrong. More of us activists need to engage in direct politics. A change is on the horizon. The traditional political structures are cracking like Humpty Dumpty and we need to take part now so that this Humpty Dumpty will never be put together again.


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