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Thought Piece | In a Pivotal Electoral Year, What Do Women Want?

Chiara Rosselli, Executive Director, APROPOS Group

Jelena Vasiljevic, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade

Emma Woodford, Chief Operating Officer, European Policy Centre

This piece is a repost of content originally created by the European Policy Center and curated by Corina Stratulat, Associate Director and Head of European Politics and Institutions Programme, who collected the views of over 50 women on the upcoming super election year in occasion of International Women’s Day.

It contains three selected thought pieces by Chiara Rosselli, Executive Director at APROPOS, Jelena Vasiljevic, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory of the University of Belgrade and Emma Woodford, Chief Operating Officer, European Policy Centre.

Chiara Rosselli, Co-Founder and Executive Director, APROPOS Group

As we approach a year marked by pivotal elections, a recurring theme emerges from my decade-long career in think tanks: the anticipation of yet another year set to redefine Europe and the global order. Against this backdrop, there is one thought that, amidst the noise, stands out to me.

I have been working with politicians across parties and the continent for ten years, and I hear an ever-stronger realisation that we’ve entered an era where even the most seasoned politicians no longer confidently hold the answers that our societies need. While this realisation may seem trite, its resonance is deafening.

This super-election year provides a unique opportunity to harness post-election momentum and cultivate the kind of reflection spaces our political operators need to wrestle with the unanswerable questions of our time. For example, “how can we drive forward progress while delivering the security that our citizens so powerfully demand?”.

Recently, I watched a documentary provocatively titled, “Are we lacking utopias?” It echoed the sentiments I’ve gleaned from politicians across the continent. What emerges is a call for more profound reflection: we need spaces to rethink, not just tweak or crisis-manage; we need spaces to build new, aspirational narratives for our society, not just keep playing defence.

My hope is that European institutions, think tanks and political conveners will be bold in leading conversations that address the difficult political questions of our time, without the expectation of immediate solutions being found. And, of the utmost importance, I hope these existential conversations will be had beyond the confines of the EU bubble and engage national parliaments and political communities across the continent.

We must carve out the intellectual and political spaces essential for genuine dialogue and visionary thinking— and we must all take responsibility to be a part of this collective and explorative endeavour: what do we want the politics and the society of tomorrow to look like?

Jelena Vasiljevic, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade

It is not figurative to say the world is exploding in violence today. Confidence in global leadership to resolve conflicts is waning by the day. Many feel adrift in thisera of global disorder, filled with anxiety and a sense of moral and political disorientation. As we step into 2024, a year marked by significant elections globally, we’re confronted with a crucial choice.

Do we resign ourselves to the belief that our individual voices hold little sway in the face of overwhelming chaos? Or do we reclaim our right to influence our collective destiny through active participation in the political process?

For many, elections have devolved into a hollow semblance of democracy, where lofty ideals like accountability and democratic and human rights standards are mere rhetoric. Yet, in these trying times, we must not forget the hard-won privilege of shaping our political landscape – through political rights to choose, lead, and participate in political affairs.

My thoughts turn to the upcoming European elections, where I hold hope that fellow Europeans will embrace their civic duties and remind current and future representatives of the foundational vision of a united Europe. I believe this vision was of a socially just, diverse and equal Europe (a whole Europe!), a continent whose shores are welcoming to all, a cosmopolis always ready to condemn war and aggression, and to promote justice, whatever the political costs. If we fear that these ideals are overshadowed by petty politics, the responsibility falls on us, the citizens,to redirect the course and reignite our political agency, starting with the simple act of voting.

Emma Woodford, Chief Operating Officer, European Policy Centre

Many of my colleagues in this paper are pointing to the fact that half of the world are voting in 2024. This means that roughly 1 in 4 of the planet’s women are going to the polls. But are our political systems fit for purpose?

The UN Women’s website states, ‘just 15 countries have a woman Head of State, and 16 countries have a woman Head of Government’ and, ‘at the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years.’

In 2023, we saw the resignation of at least three female Heads of State. Sanna Marin, Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon arguably had one thread in common; judgement-related resignations. Jacinda Ardern iterated that she didn’t have ‘enough left in the tank’, Sanna Marin was widely criticised for enjoying a party and Nicola Sturgeon had had enough of the ‘brutality’ of being a politician.The lethal cocktail of exhausting competition and punishing social media stoked by trolls from extremist or business interests took their toll.

Which begs the question: where can democracy go now our predominant paradigms are so focused on competition rather than collaboration, and extraction rather than care, for people and the planet?

For too many people, the F-word, ‘feminism’, is a loaded, confronting word. I argue that those who find it so do not understand – or do not want to understand; the real message behind it. Feminist politics aims for equity, placing care and collaboration at the centre of action and debates. What better ways can there be to tackle the problems of the world head on than through radical empathy and standing up to corporate, political or military bullies than with such collaborative power? My message: vote for your nearest feminist politician, be they female or male.

Read the whole paper here: “In a pivotal election year, what do women want?", Ed. C. Stratulat, European Policy Center (2024)


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