How my life has changed since winning the award
By Katharine Wright
Last year (2015) Ivana Bartoletti was winner of the Inspiring Migrant Woman Award, which was announced at the Migrant Woman Conference. One year later Ivana reveals that she has achieved a lot since she received the award. Ivana decided to have another child and to stand as a candidate in Havering and Redbridge for the London Assembly election. She thinks that women’s gatherings are powerful, as they show that all is possible and that you can do it all. Read this interview to discover what has changed in Ivana’s life and her message for women around the world.
Last year (2015) you won the first Migrant Woman of the Year Award. How did you feel when winning that award? What kind of impact did that have on you personally and professionally?
It was great, and I felt very proud. Also, I feel it was good that the award went to a politician – it is quite rare these days! Testament to the pragmatism of women – for us, the personal is political, and we know politics could be so much different from what it is now if we had more women from every background in power. I achieved a lot since I received the award last year, I decided to have another child and to stand as a candidate in Havering and Redbridge for the London Assembly election. I think women’s gatherings are powerful, as they show all is possible and that you can do it all.
WOMEN’S EQUALITY IS A VERY SLIPPERY GROUND – WE MUST BE VIGILANT
What does being a migrant woman mean to you?
Being a migrant is a condition of life, and a constant one. It has to do with where we live but also with what we choose to become. I feel I am both Italian and British, as well as European, which is very important now with the EU referendum approaching. Unfortunately, migration is considered in such a negative way these days! Migrants are seen as those undercutting salaries, and taking away jobs belonging to the indigenous people. Furthermore, we are witnessing an unprecedented migration crisis, with thousands losing their life trying to reach safe harbour. The images of babies and children drowning are something humanity should be ashamed of.
You have just had your second child! Many women struggle with taking time off after having a child, but you’re in the midst of a campaign for the London Assembly. How have you managed to find balance between your personal and professional lives?
The most important thing is to stop feeling you have to do everything well, like Wonder Woman. It’s impossible, and women really have to stop demanding too much from themselves. Of course you can have it all but it won’t be perfect and, frankly, it’s fine that way. I had a divorce, got through tough times and have risen again – fine. This is life, and it’s beautiful this way. I am lucky to love politics as much as I do – it is like someone loving the arts, painting or singing. It is not a 9 to 5 job: it is life altogether, and it is a privilege to feel such passion in yourself. I am sure we all have something that lights us up, and we must find it and follow it. And in doing so, we must try and surround ourselves with those who support us and are happy to see us shine.
There are now more women serving as UK politicians than ever. What has helped us reach this point and what else should be done to achieve gender equality in political representation?
Women together have done a lot. The best achievements have happened when women have broken barriers, fought and took ownership of their battles. This is why I am a great believer in feminism and in women’s organisations. We must stick together, make friends but do not expect others to carry our fight. History tells us women’s equality is a very slippery ground, and that we must be very vigilant. Look at the world around us today – violence against women is still there, and so is sexism. We get paid less then men, and risk losing our jobs when we get pregnant. There is still a lot to do.
Why is your position as chair of the Fabian Women’s Network important for you as a politician?
I love chairing the Fabian Women’s Network (FWN). FWN is about achieving more women in power, so we can change the nature of power itself. It is not just about getting more women in politics and everywhere, which is crucial, is about the ambition to make the world a better place, starting from international politics and finance. Would we have experienced the same crisis if we had had Lehman sisters instead of Lehman brothers?
What is the most important issue for female voters in elections? What impacts this demographic specifically?
Housing, jobs and childcare. Unfortunately, central London has become a playground for the wealthy of the world, and not a place for Londoners to live in. Our city has been hollowed out as fewer and fewer people can afford to buy or rent. Houses should be homes for people to live in, not commodities. Women feel they cannot afford to buy, and that their children won’t be able to do that either. And jobs – many mothers feel their children won’t be able to find a job and many women at the top of their career feel they are still paid less than men. It is not good. We need skills for Londoners, so Londoners can apply and secure the jobs this city can offer them, as well as more women in tech and more transparency in pay.
What is it that you’d most like to see the London Assembly accomplish in the coming term?
I want the Mayor of London to solve the housing crisis. Our city is amazing but we are at a crossroads: I want London to be the city I chose almost ten years ago: a city where it doesn’t matter where you are from, the colour of your skin, your religion or how much money you have. If you are prepared to work hard – then you can make it.
How do you see feminism in the UK as an international issue with a potentially global reach?
Feminism is global – and it is now more than ever. Look at what is happening in the US, and the difficulty Hillary Clinton is having to go through. It should be a no-brainer that it is time for a woman to lead the Democrats and then hopefully become President. And look at how women’s bodies are still used as tools of war everywhere in the world. Women’s empowerment is key here, and everywhere. This is why we need to foster our sisterhood at a global level, and we now have the tools to do so. We need to support each other, at all times and everywhere.