Emma Bonino
Emma Bonino

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

Emma Bonino

Political Development

What made you decide to go into politics?
I went into politics because I had an illegal abortion. I thought it was an unbearable hypocrisy. I was 27 years old and thought there had to be something I could do because it seemed crazy that, in addition to the psychological tragedy each woman has to face, came also all the rest.

Do/did you have a role model?
No. I was very restless, but finally I found my way.

Does political involvement or policy making have a tradition in your family?
My family had liberal positions. My mother was a regular church-goer and was very tolerant. My mother's studies stopped with the third year of primary school, my father with the first. They taught me a deep sense of duty. But nobody was involved in politics in my family.

Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics - e.g. in a citizens' rights, parents or other initiative? If so, in which function, in which institution and when did your political carrier begin? What were important experiences you made? What made you decide to change from grassroots to party politics?
I worked as a volunteer in a centre on the abortion issue organised by Adele Faccio. We would adopt civil disobedience and luckily we were arrested! Luckily because we couldn't satify the enormous amount of demands. So the abortion issue bursted in Italy. Later on there was the battle in favour of divorce. Women movements would form among the factory workers, a great mobilisation that distroyed the old models. On these occasions I met the Radicals and we liked each other reciprocally.

Where there disruptions in your political career path and why?
No. But I changed my focus. I was on leave from local and regional politics, as long as I was a Minister. So when the Conservative-Liberal Government stopped (the Schlüter Government), I, of course, also stopped being Minister of Health. I returned to my political career in the municipality and at the regional level. Some years later I was elected to the Parliament (Folketinget). At that time I dropped my political tasks at the local level in the municipality. But I have kept my position as a politician in the Regional Parliament, where I am President of the Committee of Health.

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Party Affiliation

What was your motivation to join a political party?
From an activity in the social context I passed to a political party because I felt and experienced that what is personal is political. There were problems politicians wouldn't care to face. Personal issues were not worth their attention. Politics wouldn't enter kitchens or bedrooms … The two great cultural and political currents of Italy have always only been concerned with the masses. The individual couldn't find any attention, for me, instead, the individual, with his or her duties, is the core.

Which party do you belong to? Since when?
Radical Party. Since the mid-70s.

Does your party have an equal opportunities regulation?
No. It never had women sections or youth sections …

Which function/offices did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after your joining the party was that? How did you get into running for an office?
I was thrown into the Parliament right away. From 1976 (when I was elected) to 1978 I was concerned with the abortion issue, later on with that of divorce. Other passions came while in Parliament, like the nuclear problem (since 1979). As I went on, I reconognised always more similarities with the Radicals. I found my way. In 1978 I was elected to the European Parliament, just as in 1984.
I was always called to offices of some importance for which I thought I was inadequate, an attitude opposite to discrimination. If ever, I should have worried about taking responsibilities for which I was not ready.

Do you have mentors within your party? Did you ever change party affiliation?
No.

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Profession/ Current priorities

How does your profession correspond with your political work?
It doesn't, even though the knowledge of languages was very useful.

What kind of vocational training, degrees or other professional qualification do you have? In what kind of jobs did you work? Are you linking both your professional and your political career?
I have a university degree in foreign languages and literature and have been a teacher of foreign languages until 1975. Now I only work in politics.

In which areas do you see your special competencies? Which are your political priorities?
I mean to defend the rights of individuals in a liberal prospect.

Which are your main fields of action?
Human rights and the freedom of individuals.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
I am positive that flexibility is a feminine characteristic. Even in the family context, women have learned to be flexible and this is something to be proud of. In the labour market, in its present situation of flexibility, women are favoured. There are prospects closer to our nature, and values that can be our own, not borrowed from others. For example, women more than men, think of the family in terms of affections community ... Women are clear-headed, they are more creative and for this reason, sometimes, also more fragile.

How and why did your objectives change during your political career?
The inspiring principles are always the same. I am now concerned with women's issues in a different way: women from Afghanistan, from Cambodia. We did not find the way out of all problems, but we do have more tools. Some principles are the same even though uncertainties remain. There is not a model, not even now. In the 70s women's individual rights were the most explosive issue - with its characteristics of exaggeration and vitality. Fortunately we were not moderate.
I think nowadays economic liberties are an explosive issue just the same. It is the other side of the coin. Economic indepence would help women very much. The new technologies are important for women, this is another aspect of the same objective.

Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in "conventional" policy making?
I think there is no difference with what happens in other sectors; women newspaper directors can only be found for women's magazines. Even though they are very good journalists it almost impossible for them to become newspaper directors. Barriers are everywhere! It is difficult for women to work with family life .. you have to be a Nobel to be able to do it!
On my opinion, the obstacles are so huge that if you don't have a strong political passion, you quit, as it just takes up too many energies. A woman must combine the role of mother, that of wife and that of politician.
Men don't need such a strong passion. They don't have as many difficulties and are more supported to combine the different aspects of their life.

What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome in their endeavour to participate in political decision-making?
The fact remains; chauvinism is prevailing. It shows even in those "politically correct". Women are a source of votes, but if they threaten men in terms of offices and positions, then they don't give up power for free.

Which are the obstacles you had to fight in your own political career?
I, myself, was my greatest obstacle. I have often had to cheer up, for example, not to get depressed or to face fascinating things that scared me.

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