Nyamko Sabuni


November 30, 2007

Nyamko Sabuni

Minister for Integration and Gender Equality

"The easier we can make it for women and men to combine a career with family life, the easier it will be to get women to accept leadership, or also to be asked to take on leadership." – Nyamko Sabuni

iKNOW Politics: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

My name is Nyamko Sabuni and I’m 38 years old. I was born in exile in Burundi. I am originally Congolese, my parents are from Congo. I came to Sweden in 1981 when I was 12 years old. I have been lucky enough to grow up surrounded by Swedish children and have learnt to speak fluent Swedish, something that has made it easier for me to integrate and maybe also for me to be successful in this country. Today, I am married and have two children, six-year-old twin boys.

IKNOW Poltics: Have you faced any obstacles in your political career as a woman? If yes, which ones?

No obvious obstacles, but of course it’s not easy for women to have a career when they’re expected to take care of the home and the children and to be competent and maybe even better than men to receive any attention. So that kind of obstacle is there for many of us, if not for all of us. Otherwise I think that the competition is tough. But everyone has to deal with that as best they can.

iKNOW Politics: Are there specific obstacles that, in your opinion, prevent women from becoming political leaders?

No, not necessarily from becoming a leader. But one obstacle that does exist is that women can’t manage to combine family life with a career, and that is where politics can make a difference. The easier we can make it for women and men to combine a career with family life, the easier it will be to get women to accept leadership, or also to be asked to take on leadership.

iKNOW Politics: Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world. What do you see as your priority issue when it comes to working for equality in Sweden?

We may be the world leader in gender equality, but there are many things that we have to do on the labour market, in family policy and business policy. But for me, the most acute gender equality issue does still remain that of men’s violence against women. It is a fundamental right in society to be able to keep one’s integrity intact, to have one’s body protected from violence. And this is primarily about human rights. So the battle against men’s violence towards women is a priority issue.

iKNOW Politics: What advice can you give the women leaders and candidates trying to succeed in their political careers?

Choose the right partner, a partner who can support you in your development and who is prepared to take on an equal share of the responsibility for children and the home. Don’t be afraid, believe in yourself. And not least: have a mixed group of friends. What I mean is, have male friends too. Today, there are male networks of different kinds that women are not a part of. So try to become friends with men and get into these networks. I think that men are just as willing to choose a woman as they are a man.