Profession/ Current priorities
Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments
© Jan 2001
The passion for social justice. Politics have always been passion and values for me.
Do/did you have a model of inspiration?
My father and mother, very simple and honest people. My father, in particular, gave me the sense of dignity of work and the great dignity of the humble. My father was catholic and had nothing to do with politics. On the contrary, at the beginning he did not approve of my choice. My father was for me a model in terms of ethics and values.
Does political involvement or policy making have a tradition in your family?
My uncle was a member of PCI (Italian Communist Party). He provided me with the knowledge to turn my ethic issues into politics. He was a factory worker at FIAT and was fired, he was a great activist.
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?
I worked in parishes, in basic communities, in ACLI (associations of catholic workers), in feminist groups and in groups of voluntary services. My choice of going into politics was determined by Enrico Berlinguer's proposal of "compromesso storico" (historical compromise). It was releasing for me as I could finally put together the two parts of myself: the catholic values and the Left. On that occasion I found the strength within me to translate my ethic choices into political choices.
Where there disruptions in your political career path and why?
I have always and intensely loved my party. Most of all I loved the PCI. Then with the transition to Pci/Pds it was different. I did a lot of militancy, in the social context, with women .. but rather than disruptions these were parallel experiences, at least for a long period..
How and why did your objectives change in your political career?
It was not a change. It was a dialectic among different objectives. I was in the party, but at the same time also very close to external activites. It's always been like this. Even now that I am Minister, the government's political dimension is, paradoxically, the most congenial to me, I don't loose touch with reality, with the relation with people, with listening...
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The fundamental incentive was the social justice, linked, though, to the catholic world. Then, like I said, there was that proposal of Berlinguer's, the "compromesso storico", which sort of "authorised" me to pass to active party politics. I joined the PCI in the 70s. Then I followed it in changes (PDS) and now DS (Democratici di Sinistra - Left-wing democrats).
Does your party have a regulation for equal opportunities?
Yes. The recent Convention of January 2000 established in its Statute the presence of 40% of women in all party's executive bodies. Sanctions are also envisaged in case of non-application.
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?
The militancy phase took place in youth clubs of FGCI (Italian communist youth federation). I was Secretary of Turin's FGCI, I was in charge of women's issues for Turin's federation, all this always being activist for other issues. I was town councillor, regional councillor, then national responsible for women for 10 years… so many, maybe too many, groups. In 1986 I bacame part of the Party's national Secretariat. In 1987 I was elected at the Lower House. I was the first of my party's men and women who was appointed, within the Prime Minister's Office, President of the EO National Commission in 1995. Then I became Minister with Mr. Prodi's Government and was reconfirmed with Mr. D'Alema's. I have always been a hard worker; great passion and good health have supported me.
Sometimes I think of all the work I have done so far,… I would also like to live in a different way.
Did you have mentors within your party?
I have had great moral mentors: Mr. Berlinguer, Mr. Natta. It's about having a great trust in somebody. But also the women of my party: Mrs. Adriana Seroni, Mrs. Nilde Jotti … And the people of the Left. I have a great debt of gratitude to the simple persons.
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I would have liked to teach philosophy, I have regrets. As a matter of fact my profession is politics. I have done many jobs to earn my living. But I developed my professionalism in politics.
Are you linking both your professional and your political career? In which area do you see your special competencies?
I think I am a very good organiser. And I would have been a good philosophy teacher, I think I would have chosen that career.
Which are your political priorities?
Which are your main fields of action?
The social context in general: women issues, fight to social marginalisation, employment issues...
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I would like to give my contribution to the implementation of a new Italian welfare system, capable of including families, the marginalised, children, of integrating immigrants, of valuing the social expense, of giving to the Country the services it lacks.
Do equal opportunities strategies - in your opinion - have an impact in your country to promote women in decision-making? (quota, EO legislation, etc… please name the strategy)
It is thanks to these strategies if women work in politics. In Parliament women account for 30%, a battle that was called "adjusting the scales of representation". So measures like the quota system and lobbies are welcome … in Italy there was too little of this!
Did you benefit from these strategies?How do you judge them?
I took advantage of a party that showed great attention to the training of executives, a tradition of attention to women. So I profited of a mechanism called co-optation resulting from a particular idea of politics. Mr. Natta called me in the Secretariat one day, I was 30 years-old, because he had in mind a renovation of the executives and one woman had to be among them, he took a young one …
Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in "conventional" policy making? What is it that keeps women from committing themselves to politics?
There are both direct and indirect discriminations.
What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome in their endeavour to participate in political decion-making?
One obstacle may be the observation of all the time you have to be dedicated. The other may be the idea of being always "second best": not enough authoritative, not enough daring. Moreover, parties are not very open to women, except for the DS that went through an "opening process" on this issue.
There should also be more positive feminine models showing the possibility of combining family and work: I am a mother, coming from a regular family, who is also a Minister who takes her child to school every morning and who, when she can, goes grocery-shopping or to the hair-dresser -always in a hurry - who has problems like fighting wrinkles.
Which are the obstacles you had to fight in your own political career?
My obstacle is myself. The conflict is within me, I never feel right. I fear to dare in the first person, I feel "second best", I always felt "put aside". At the same time, I owe my career to myself, and in this conflict - which was painful - these negative feelings clashed with my great force, my desire for achievment which was my incentive.
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