Millennials in politics: Samira Rafaela

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The 32-year-old Member of the European Parliament shares her thoughts on women’s rights, feminism, and the need for more diversity within politics. Plus, we hear about how she uses social media to connect with her younger followers

Samira Rafaela is a Dutch Member of the European Parliament and part of the Renew Europe Group. The daughter of a Jewish Curaçaoan-Dutch mother and a Ghanaian-Nigerian Muslim father, Rafaela’s diverse background has inspired her work, always keeping her open-minded view of the world – whether it’s to strive for a more sustainable trade policy or to diminish inequality and push for diversity. 

Last year has been quite a year for women in politics, looking at Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kaja Kallas (the first female PM of Estonia) and, of course, Kamala Harris. Has that shift or more representation of women in politics also been visible in Brussels? 
‘It’s got better, but there is still a high urgency of participation for more women in politics, especially at the top level. More specifically, I miss young women participating in politics as we need to decide our future. However, there are obstacles that may make it more difficult for women, especially those of colour, to get involved. One of these obstacles is online hate speech, which is not encouraging to fight sexism in a male-dominated industry. This is one of my party’s objectives to tackle in order to create a safe space within the political arena.’

Which women do you look up to in politics? 
‘My number-one role model at the moment is Kamala Harris. To watch the inauguration of Kamala becoming VP was a very emotional moment. It sent a clear message to all women, including myself, that I can become a VP and that those spaces also belong to us. Looking at the Caribbean part of The Netherlands, I noticed that there are so many more female politicians who lead and participate. Their boldness and fierceness inspires and empowers me.’

Millennial politicians, yet alone women, are still a rarity in political circles. Do you feel you’re always taken seriously? 
‘As a young woman of colour in politics, I don’t fit the norm, so it can be challenging to feel accepted or taken seriously at times. There are occasions when I might be dismissed, because I might not be as experienced as my peers. But I don’t back down in what I believe in and know. I grew up with very strong women who have taught me that I should respect myself, and not shy away from any challenge I face in life. This is a strength that I use in the political arena. And, most importantly, I see it as my responsibility towards other women of colour to not back down, in order to protect them and claim our seat at the table.’

Do you feel a sense of responsibility towards women? 
‘Yes, definitely, because I realise that I speak to women and especially young girls. Often, I receive questions on how I got there and what steps I have taken in my career, as there are women who are struggling to be seen. This is the reason why I share my day-to-day life – to create accessibility and normalise women like myself being in those spaces.’

How do you use your social accounts to interact with the younger generation, such as Gen Z? 
‘Through social media, my focus is mainly to raise awareness, provide more information on what a European Parliamentarian does, and interact with my audience by asking them questions. Also, I share a lot of personal stories and behind the scenes in order to create a normalcy to inspire others to step into politics. By doing this, it provides access to this world and an understanding that this parliament is also ours.’
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