Slovenia’s 1st female foreign minister highlights challenges women face in diplomacy, politics
‘My aim is to actively promote and strengthen the role of women in diplomacy at all levels,’ Tanja Fajon tells Anadolu
By Gulcin Kazan Doger
ISTANBUL (AA) – Highlighting the challenges women face in diplomacy and politics, Slovenia’s first woman foreign minister said unfortunately diplomats are not exempt from sexual and gender-based violence, mobbing, and harassment.
In an interview with Anadolu, Tanja Fajon said: “I have to say that throughout the years I have developed thick skin. I have learned to live and ignore rough, insulting, humiliating, even aggressive and hateful tone of communication.”
Stating that she started her career as a journalist in Brussels, the top diplomat said that she became familiar with the EU decision-making procedure and relevant topics being discussed in the EU institutions during her over 10-year experience and later became a Member of the European Parliament (MEP).
“I didn't plan to enter politics. On the contrary, politics 'found me.' I was asked if I was interested to be on the Slovenian Social Democrats’ list and to run for the European elections in 2009. Luckily, I was elected and the rest is history. I never regretted this decision,” she said.
“As the first woman foreign minister in the history of Slovenia, my aim is to actively promote and strengthen the role of women in diplomacy at all levels, including in decision-making positions,” she added.
About women’s role in politics, she said: “Slovenia has had a historic year for gender equality in 2022. Following parliamentary and presidential elections, we have the highest number of women MPs ever (40%), the first-ever woman president of Slovenia, a woman president of Parliament, and a woman foreign minister – myself. For the first time, a woman also assumed the office of State Attorney General.”
- ‘Sexist, chauvinist narrative’
Sharing her experience in politics and diplomacy, Fajon said: “Women have to fight harder and work more in order to achieve top positions compared to men.”
Referring to a photo female foreign ministers took at the NATO Summit in July, and the sexist comment made by former Slovenian minister and economist Joze Pavlic Damijan, Fajon said: “Unfortunately, politicians and intellectuals are not immune to the sexist and chauvinist narrative. Just a couple of days ago, my colleagues – women foreign ministers taking part in the recent NATO Summit in Vilnius – and myself were being addressed as ‘chickens’ on Twitter (now X) by a famous Slovenian economist. It makes me sad and angry.”
“But at the same time, it gives me additional impetus to promote women's issues, including feminist foreign policy. I am aware of the privilege and responsibility that I can take an active part in the decision-making process. Bringing more women to the table where decisions are being made is my dream that I strive for. Our place is at the table where decisions are made. Full stop,” she added.
- ‘Slovene women diplomats and sexual harassment’
Stating that she has been paying close attention to any kind of abuse and violence within the ministry and working for a no-harassment and no-violence policy in the workplace, she said: “Unfortunately, diplomats are not exempt from sexual and gender-based violence, mobbing and harassment.”
She said that a joint Iceland-Slovenia study titled “Empowered diplomacy: bridging the gender gap in 2020” found that “about a quarter of surveyed Slovenian women diplomats witnessed and experienced sexual harassment in a period of 10 years.”
Fajon said that measures have been taken to mitigate the occurrence of violence and mobbing in the workplace.
“Our ministry has designated officers (for integrity and equal opportunities) whom all employees can refer to in confidence. These officers follow official/legal protocols in addressing reports of mobbing and violence in the workplace. In addition, we are carrying out sensitization workshops on the prevention of mobbing and sexual violence at the workplace for all employees of the ministry,” she said.
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