Malin Bjork
Malin Bjork
Member, European Parliament

I have always been engaged in different battles for social justice where feminism has been a central pillar. I am a currently a member of the European Parliament, but I wouldn’t be here or have gotten into party politics at all without support from feminists from both the Swedish left-wing party and different grassroots movements.

When I was younger, I learned a lot from other feminists who were my informal mentors and shared their knowledge and opened doors for me. Without them I would not be who and where I am today. Women have to create spaces for themselves and for each other. Being in environments where women have more space, weight, experiences, and knowledge, has been an invaluable experience for me. Now, whether I work on refugee rights, climate action, or sexual and reproductive health and rights, I do it together with grassroots movements. I am proud of keeping these connections as a parliamentarian.

Together, we have managed to defend quite a different outlook for sexual and reproductive health and abortion rights in Europe, making sure that we don’t backtrack, even in the face of conservative and authoritarian pressure that has been quite aggressive at times. We have a network for abortion rights that also issues recommendations on sexual and reproductive health and against sexual harassment. 

Feminist struggles in Europe and beyond are about rights to our bodies, but also economic rights and everything else that affects us. As women, we need to be aware of the interlinked conservative forces that are authoritarian, patriarchal, anti-migrant, anti-refugee, anti-LGBTI, racist, climate crisis denialist, and against the rule of law. They are threatening. But the more we mobilise, the more allies we have. As feminists, we are central to the fight against authoritarianism.

I have been lucky to have the support of different grassroots movements and a political party that values feminism and gender parity. When you are a woman, left-wing, and openly lesbian, it means you have to work harder. People consider your voice marginal, which means you have to be an even better negotiator. You have to be even more convincing and clever.

If you are left-wing and openly lesbian, of course you are a target. As a parliamentarian, I am in quite a safe space. But there is a high level of aggression coming from men on social media. Being in politics also means you are a public person, which in itself can be daunting. That is why we need to support women who enter politics – it can be a rough world.

I want to make sure young women in Europe know there are supportive spaces they can be a part of and that they can even create those spaces themselves. Being part of a movement is crucial, that’s where you get the inspiration and the energy to keep fighting in more institutional and formalised spaces. Entering politics is not a life sentence, they should give it a try – their voices are so important for our future.