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International Women in Danish politics

Over a century has passed since women received the right to vote and run for Danish Parliament (1915). So, how far have we come?

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Narcis George Matache

Despite representing half of the population in Denmark, that is still (in 2022) not reflected in the three levels of government (local, regional and national). Moreover, at the last parliamentary elections (2019), women obtained 39,1% of the seats, putting Denmark in 29th place in the world regarding equality.

However, if we look at women with a minority background and women without Danish citizenship, the situation is much worse. In 2021, you could count on your fingers the number of international women standing up for local and regional elections in Denmark. True equality will only be achieved when women from various backgrounds will have a significant say over how we do things in this country.

The battle for women's political rights in Denmark started early compared to other European states. In 1871, the Danish Women's Society (Dansk Kvindesamfund) was founded, and in 1886, a politician from Venstre made the first failed attempt to give women voting rights. Finally, after 45 years of struggle, women received the right to vote in 1915, and the first nine women got elected in 1918. This represented a turning point for Danish society.

It was women that elected the first social-democrat Danish government in 1924. To reward their support, prime-minister Thorvald Stauning appointed a woman for the first time as a minister (Nina Bang, minister of education). This represented the birth of "Scandinavian state feminism" (welfare society and social democrat regime) that systematically empowered women and laid the ground for an "equalitarian society".

Since then, progress has been made:

1976: The equal salary law.

1994: The first Danish woman EU-Commissaire (Ritt Bjerregard).

1999: The establishment of an equality minister.

2015: The first Danish woman prime minister (Helle Thorning-Schmidt). Progress obtained through the hard work of women representing other women's interests.

My suggestion for today's women's representatives is to add another issue to their agenda: tackling sexism, sexual harassment, and abuse of power. In addition, we need a representation of women with different backgrounds, including women without Danish citizenship. On the way to equality, no woman should be left behind.

"Many women, especially international women, stay away from politics, and we must change that. Politics should reflect the diverse society we live in, and thus also lead to broader and better decision-making." - Almina Nikontovic, local councilman of Bosnian origin (Frederikshavn)

An interview with international women in Danish politics:

Alina Răcilă (local candidate Tønder);

Roxana Simion (local candidate Frederiksberg)

Q: How was your first experience with Danish politics?

Do you recommend that other international women get involved?

Alina: It was a good experience, rich in (self)education, communication, and emotion, both positive and negative. I have met many new people, ordinary citizens and politicians, and have learnt a lot from them. We all share individual but at the same time common experiences of life in Denmark. By involving ourselves, we can make a difference to ourselves and others around us.

Roxana: My entry into politics was hesitant, but everything became interesting and inspiring once I gained courage. And yes, I recommend all women become involved. If not a candidate for a local/regional election, then as a party member. Joining a political community that advocates for the same values as you do are powerful.

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