Yvonne Herløv Andersen
Yvonne Herløv Andersen

Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Yvonne Herløv Andersen

Political Development

What made you decide to go into politics?
I worked in an institution within the special care sector. The staff used a lot of time to discuss how awful life was and how dreadfully we were treated. We discussed how things in the institution could be better both for the people who lived there and for us as staff. Then I thought that it was a rather good idea to try to do something about it instead of only talking about it. That was why I became joint shop steward for different institutions in the area to try to change things through a political process. In addition, I had read many books on social realism when I was a teenager. They influenced me quite a lot. Moreover, I was very engaged in amateur theatre. Through this work I got aquatinted with the well-known Danish politician Erhard Jacobsen. In this way I was involved in the work of the Social Democratic Party, as Erhard at that time was a Member of this party. When he left the Party to establish another Party, the Centre Democrats (CD), I joined him. It was in 1973, so I have recently had my 25 years jubilee in CD. I will say that I decided to go into politics because of social indignation and social engagement. I have always wanted to change things, and I am very interested to find out how the facts are.

Do/did you have a role model?
No, I have not had any role models, but I have met persons who moved me deeply, for instance Indira Ghandi and Golda Meïr. They were two clear ideals.

Does political involvement or policy making have a tradition in your family?
There was never anybody in my family who was politically active or engaged. My mother and father sympathized with two different parties, which was not normal at that time. However, my parents did not talk about politics at home.

Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics?
If so, in which function? No.

Where there disruptions in your political career path and why?
I started my political career, when CD was established in 1973. At that time I became a candidate for the party both for local, regional and national elections. It then happened that I was elected to all of them at the same time. It was not possible to do all three jobs at the same time. It was too much work, and I had to choose. I chose Parliament, but when I lost my post in Parliament some years later, I had none of the other political posts left. Then I returned to my professional post as Head of a Department of a Children's Hospital. But I was a candidate again when there was a new election to Parliament. I have continued in this way. I have been in - and I have been out. When I have been out, I have taken up my professional career.

Where there disruptions in your biography that have/had an impact on your political career?
Yes, see above. I think that coming and going from both your political and your professional career has given me a lot. I have seen in practice how the legislation, which we made in Parliament, functioned and could be managed. So these disruptions in both careers have given me knowledge and experiences, which I could use subsequently.

How and why did your objectives change during your political career?
I have not changed my objectives. They have been the same. But I would have hoped that you could maintain your social indignation at the same level for your whole life. Though I think that it is quite naive when you say that you want to keep the faith of your childhood. Of course you change yourself from having a strong social indignation to focus more on precise political action and also be more pragmatic.
I was Minister of Social Affairs for a very short time, only half a year. Afterwards I became Minster of Health. That was something quite different. I liked better to be Minister of Social Affairs because of the culture in this Ministry. In the Ministry of Health we work on the principle of "evidence". There has to be scientific evidence, before you can go on to action. In the Ministry of Social Affairs we TALK about it and if anyone has found that this or that works, then we try it.

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Party Affiliation

Does your party have an equal opportunities regulation?
No, not at all. But if you want to be a candidate, you can always count on that if a woman is no. 2 at the list, she will be the one who is elected. It will not be the man. It has always been like that. That is why we have never discussed in the party whether we should introduce quotation. It has not been necessary. I think that it is because our party mostly appeals to women and I think that the reason is that we focus very much the "soft areas" and attitudes.
In our group in Parliament there has often been more women. Our voters change a lot, and right now our voters are younger people who are especially interested in social issues, health questions, and the "soft areas".

Which function/offices did you hold in your party at the beginning?
I had many different functions. I was Secretary for the Party and Member of the Party's Presidium for 10 years. And I was Chair of the Parliamentarian group for 2 years.

Do you have mentors within your party?
No, we have never had that in CD. We have a Secretariat, who helps new politicians. Moreover, as a Minister you have a personal secretary.

Did you ever change party affiliation?
Yes. I started in the Social Democratic Party. Then I joined the Centre Democrats (CD), when it was established in 1973.

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Profession/ Current priorities

How does your profession correspond with your political work?
It corresponds well. While I am a politician, I am on leave from my professional job. When I have not been elected to Parliament, I have gone back to my professional job. I feel that I can change between theory and practice. It gives me a lot.

What kind of vocational training, degrees or other professional qualification do you have?
I am trained children's nurse and a social educationalist.

In what kind of jobs did you work?
I have been Head of Department of a Children's Hospital and of a special care institution. Afterwards I have been a Director of a day and night institution for children - and I still am when I am not elected to Parliament.

In which areas do you see your special competencies?
I have primarily my special competencies within the areas of Social Affairs and the Health Sector.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
I want to see that we can stick to the principle of having a free and equal access to health provisions, hospitals, etc. We should prioritise, strengthen, and allocate more money to the health sector. It is in this respect extremely important that we develop measures so that we are able to prioritise within the sector itself, so that more money is set aside to research.
I am also very interested in contributing to a better life for threatened children and youngsters.

How and why did your objectives change during your political career?
They did not change.

Do equal opportunity strategies - in your opinion - have an impact in your country to promote women in decision-making?
The development, which we have been through, has meant a lot, and I am of the opinion that equal opportunity strategies have had a positive effect.
Women have become more visible, and more women have taken further education. Maternity leave and leave on the child's first sick day have both had a very positive effect, because it was difficult to get a job, if you had small children. In the political life there is only one recipe that works: Women choose women. When I went abroad as a Minister - I was in Dubai - they were astonished when I told them how many women we had in the Danish Parliament. So we have achieved a lot.
But we still have a long way to go. I think that my daughter's generation has let us down, because it did not find it important to work for equal opportunities. These young girls feel that they are equal with the boys, so they do not want to fight. But they find out a little later, when they get children, that we have not yet got an equal society. There is a very big group of younger women whose relationship with a man is being dissolved, because they cannot agree to take responsibility for the practical things in the home by joint efforts. Then we still have a very big problem, which has not yet been solved: We have not got equal pay. We have to work on that in the future.

Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in "conventional" policy making?
No, I do not see it in Danish policy.

What is it that keeps women from committing themselves to politics?
Women consider and reflect if they get a request, whereas men accept at once. It is exactly the same when men and women answer an advertisement. If the men can meet two of ten demands, they take the job. If the women are short of two of the demands, they do not take the job. There is a big difference here between the genders. Women are more reserved and eager to do the right things and do it perfect. It has something to do with our upbringing. I think that we shall work on changing our own attitudes. Legislation cannot help us so much more.

Which are the obstacles you had to fight in your own political career?
No, I have never myself met these obstacles.

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