Brussels municipality Jette is swearing in a new mayor on Tuesday, and with the number of women in local politics still low, this marks a step in the right direction for gender equality in politics.
The 51-year-old Claire Vandevivere did not originally plan to go into politics, but when the opportunity presented itself, she went for it, reported Sud Info.
“I have always liked to seize the opportunities that come my way,” said Vandevivere.
Taking her opportunities was how she got a break in politics in 1999. At the time, she was a university assistant and a parliamentary assistant for European affairs.
“I did not aspire to be active in politics. Three months before the European elections in 1999, I was called one morning and told that there was a fourth replacement available on the European list. They believed a woman from Brussels would be a good candidate for the list. I had to decide within the hour. My husband and I said to ourselves, ‘Why not?”
By bike and with mindfulness
Vandevivere was elected as local councillor during the Municipal Elections in 2000. Now, 22 years later, she will succeed mayor Hervé Doyen, who has held the position since 2000.
The new mayor was in charge of environmental issues previously and now travels mainly by bike. “Every morning, I make a diversion to the King Baudouin Park where I can breathe deeply,” Vandevivere said.
Practising mindfulness, Vandevivere is ready for the new challenge. “With mindfulness, I have all the weapons to face the stress, the responsibilities and the difficult world that awaits me as mayor.”
Diversity in politics
The number of women in local politics remains low. In Belgium’s latest local elections in 2018, 39% of those elected were women, a slight uptake from local elections in 2012 when 36% of those elected were women.
With increasing awareness of the importance of representation for democracy, diversity is a hot-button issue.
Women are faced with gender-specific barriers when entering politics. A London School of Economics blog suggested that it takes a longer time to develop their career because gatekeepers in politics hold prejudices about women’s competence in relation to specific portfolios.