Austrian Parliamentarian Faika El-Nagashi joins FiLiA Spokeswoman Raquel Rosario Sánchez to discuss the intersectional nature of her multi-faceted work as a feminist politician, her defence of lesbian rights and her background as a campaigner for social justice.
Faika El-Nagashi is a long-time feminist & lesbian human rights advocate. She is a political scientist by vocation, political activist by passion and politician by profession. Her expertise is on women’s and human rights, women’s migration, development cooperation, integration and diversity politics, intersectionality and LGBT rights. On 24 November 2015, she became a Green Party councillor in Vienna and a member of the Vienna Provincial Parliament. She has served as Member of the National Council of Austria since 2019.
Aside from being a Member of Parliament in Austria, Faika El-Nagashi is the Spokeswoman for Integration and Diversity Politics of the Austrian Green Party. She is a political scientist and longstanding human rights advocate who has been active in civil society organisations on the national and transnational level for more than 25.
Faika sits on the Advisory Board of the Lesbian Project, which was launched in March 2023. The Lesbian Project: “is a new initiative that highlights and champions the experiences, insights and sensibilities of lesbians in all their diversity. Led by Julie Bindel and Kathleen Stock, The Lesbian Project intends to give voice and influence to women whose stories are too often overlooked. The Lesbian Project works to build a knowledge base about lesbian lives, promote sensible and evidence-based policy, and contribute to building lesbian community in the UK and internationally. A not-for-profit organisation, The Lesbian Project is non-partisan.”
Her book (in Austrian) “Für alle, die hier sind” (2022), is titled ‘For Everyone Who is Here’ about a manifesto of solidarity about feminist principles, intersectionality and the politics of belonging can be purchased here. You can follow Faika El-Nagashi on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also learn more about her work on her Youtube channel.
Faika El-Nagashi's Intersectional Politics are here to Stay.
Raquel Rosario Sánchez for FiLiA in conversation with Faika El-Nagashi
Raquel: Hello everyone. Welcome to the FiLiA Podcast. My name is Raquel Rosario Sánchez, and I am the spokeswoman for FiLiA.
Today we are over the moon to be speaking with Faika El-Nagashi. Faika is a feminist human rights defender. She's a political scientist by vocation. She's a political activist by passion, and she's a politician by profession.
Her expertise is on women and human rights, women's migration, development cooperation, integration and diversity politics, intersectionality, and LGBTQ rights. She's currently a member of the Austrian Parliament and a spokesperson for integration and diversity politics and for animal rights in the Green party. Faika El-Nagashi is an advisor for the Lesbian Project.
The Lesbian Project was launched in Spring 2023, and it is a new initiative that highlights and champions the experiences, the insights, and the sensibilities of lesbians in all of their diversity.
First of all, Faika El-Nagashi how are you?
Faika: Hello, Raquel. Thank you very much for having me, I'm good. How are you?
Raquel: I'm good. I'm good. I'm very excited to speak with you. Your life sounds so fascinating.
Faika: Well, yes, yes, yes. I think so too, to be honest. Yes.
Raquel: How have you been? You know, we, at least in the UK, we've learned so much about you recently and you're a Member of Parliament, you know, so aside from your feminist activism or your concern, particularly for feminist issues, you're actually like in parliament as your nine to five job.
Faika: Yes, exactly, yes. So of course national politics is something that affects me all the time. In the UK it's also quite turbulent. I think that we see a lot of this in, in many European countries, that the conservatives are lost politically, somehow and the progressives are lost as well.
And I think both sides, or both ideologies came to this point of not being able to really develop their narratives further. There have been so many issues that were unexpected and that would need a good, solid political approach. Let's say the pandemic, let's say everything that has to do with artificial intelligence.
So, I find that the classical ideological approaches or political parties, they lack an, a grasp of these realities and, and also the flexibility to maybe change their positions and to find common ground with others.
Raquel: Yes, absolutely. So, can I ask you a very simple question just to begin.
You were born in Budapest, Hungary. How does a Hungarian citizen become a Member of Parliament in Austria?
Faika: Yes, that's a very good question. That was a long way, a very long way, and it was unexpected. I do not remember that I had ever set out to become a politician or a Member of Parliament. It wasn't even very attractive to me or did not quite speak to me.
Let's put it like this. I mean, I was born in Hungary and then I came to Austria with my family when I was four years old. And learned German here in kindergarten. So Hungarian is my first language, went to school, then I was young and struggled with so many things. So I think what you experience as a young person, deep identity crisis maybe in your adolescence. There were so many questions around my identity that I asked myself, who am I? Where am I from? My dad is Egyptian, my father is black, my mother is white, my father is Muslim. My mother is in theory Catholic. What does it put me? where do I belong? So it was really a lot of thinking and feeling around belonging.
How can I say I am from Austria when I was not born here, when my passport is not Austrian? I feel so alienated here on one level, and then people would keep asking me where I'm from, even though I felt quite comfortable, been to school there, spoke the language, but this constant reminder of not belonging.
And at the same time also I, when I would be in Hungary, I would feel emotionally connected, but not really belonging, again, on that level of what would other people allow me to feel. And in a similar way also for Egypt. I would feel like I don't speak the language. I don't think that I really would feel a sense of belonging in Egypt either.
And then what, additionally came in, in that period was this a deep thinking about my sexuality and an understanding of my sexual orientation or my sexual preference. And eventually to come out to myself, first and foremost as a lesbian.
And so that to me, first seemed as the worst thing in the world to be all of this. So to be weird and alienated and different on so many levels.
So I felt that on top of everything, being all the things that I am, I'm also a lesbian. So it's, it felt almost like the end of the world, but it would not be if I decide that it's not.
And so I took this decision to say, okay, I accept being all of this, and I will take it upon me, and I will deal with this, what I have been given, what life has given me.
So, then I went into the world with this identity and burden at the beginning. And, and I tried to turn it into my energy and my motivation and my passion and try to see where I am in this world and where I fit in and where others are in relation to me and what I think is wrong with this world or how I would like to change things and shift things around and put my energy into that.
And that is how at a very young age, I kind of met activism, or activism became the path for me to further develop my identity, but also to find a sense and meaning in life and see what it is that I can do best, maybe.
And so I've been on this activist path for a very, very long time, and that was what I did before going into politics professionally and becoming a politician as a job to do activism. And I did that for I think 15 years or so before I became an elected politician. And I still feel very strongly connected to this activist element and aspect of my life. And then later I can say one thing led to another, coming from civil society, having been active and an activist for years and decades almost.
I decided I will try and see if the political sphere has anything to offer. And I chose to try this with the Greens because the Greens have been the party that was most closely aligned with regards to their values, to what I have been interested in.
Raquel: This is all very interesting.
You talk about your right and your sense of self, all of this complex realities, this is truly like what you've described is intersectionality, you know, it's all of these multiple complexities that we all carry. You know, you say my dad is from Egypt my Mum is from Hungary. And then the race issue and then the religion differences. You are a politician from the Austrian Green Party. And you have held a Vienna seat since 2015, you talked to us about ‘my activism, I was so concerned about this human rights cause’ And you also mentioned that you didn't set out to become a politician, but at some moment you have to fill out a form and I wonder what was the moment in which you decided, Okay, I'm going to not only be concerned about politics, campaign about politics, be an activist in politics, but I want people, the people walking around the streets in Vienna, I want to tell them I will be the person who will advocate for you.
So tell us about your arrival into formal politics.
Faika: I think it's quite complex, you know, because one moment was that I was pretty fed up with NGO work. I arrived at a point where I felt that it did not hold the potential for change that I was looking for. So I felt that often you depend on state funding, you depend on party politics you are very limited in what you can say. Even your press releases get policed in one way or another by the politicians and by the parties that fund you. So this part of organized civil society or institutionalized NGO work, I've been doing that for 15 years and I was really frustrated and I felt that really it lacked the potential for change that I was looking for.
I was not sure if politics actually had that. But I felt a sense of responsibility and an understanding of the complexity of issues that I wanted to bring to the attention of the political level.
And so first I started to work as an employee with the Greens. It was part-time job for a maternity leave replacement for a year.
And while I was doing that, so while I was observing what the politicians around me did, and it was something that was a bit detached from my reality. So politicians, that was not something that was close to me, though the field itself of course was part of my work also before. So I saw specifically what they were doing.
And I remember I had this moment, especially when I was observing men, so male politicians, that I thought to myself, actually, I really think I could do that. It's not such a mystery. It's not specific magic, you don't have to be a selected talented person.
So it really became something that I could grasp differently and thought to myself, I think I can do that.
Raquel: It sounds like from speaking with you and with female politicians, like there's a mystery there. Politicians have been sort of mystified. You have to be not only smart, like uber smart, you have to be strategic, not just strategic, but like uber strategic. You just have to be so much more. And then for men it's not like that, you know, for men it's like, oh, you can come in and out of politics and you can do this, and you can do that, and you don't even have to be very good.
But for women, I think that the expectation and the stereotypes is if you believe that you can rule or govern over a city, govern over a country, then you have to be beyond exceptional. And so for you in your mind like how did you, was it through your NGO work and just seeing these very human politicians mess things up in so many different ways?
Did you humanise politics into something that is attainable for you?
Faika: I'm not sure if I humanised politics or if I super humanised myself. Because the asset that I had from my NGO work is that I think and or thought and still think that I know some of the issues. So I would not want to go into politics just for the sake of being in politics. But I had things to do. I had things that I wanted to do. I had groups, constituents that I was thinking of. Issues.
The area that I came from was women's migration. So I worked for 11 years with the Migrant Women's organization based in Vienna.
So migrant women and the intersections, in terms of issues, integration politics, but also migration politics, feminist politics of course, then different elements of it, be it representation, be it something very specific such as labour markets integration, but also working on anti-racism, on anti-discrimination, violence against women. And then some specific issues that I worked on, sex work, migrant sex worker’s rights. I was very focused on supporting migrant sex workers for a long time. And, and I also worked a lot on LGBTIQ issues and also here at the intersectionality, LGBTIQ refugees. And did a lot of projects around this.
So that there were specific issues that I knew of and issues that drove me and wanting to do something, wanting to be visible and vocal about these issues. And a lot of them were marginalised topics and also marginalised groups. And I felt that, that's hardly ever talked about in politics.
So even today when I'm in Parliament and I speak, and when I give a speech and I will speak about racism and I don't remember that any of my colleagues or politicians from other parties even use the word racism or talk about it in any way that makes sense in any coherent or congruent way. But racism is an issue. It's not just something that comes up maybe from an activist side or on social media. It is an issue. It's a reality here. We could and we should address it. There are enough reports and statistics and you could talk about it in a serious way, but it is completely evaded.
I know that I'm still one of the very, very, very few who on this level of politics and in Parliament talks about this and addresses this. And so this is, I think what I wanted to get. And, and then to be able to do it, I told myself that I think I can do it and to find out whether I can or not I have to try.
Raquel: It is wonderful that you did because I imagine you have inspired so many women and young women and people who care also about racism, people who care about animal rights, people who care about all these topics, but maybe thought, yeah, but that's not for me. That's for like some special people who are like super gifted and maybe that is not me, but, you taking that step is a clarion call for so many other people.
Faika: I hope so. I got a lot of very, very positive feedback, especially from young women, and especially from young women with a migrant background and a lot of them with a Muslim background. And they understand. I think a lot of where I come from. I wrote a book also where I explained more about where I come from, but also without a lot of explanation there is like a natural way of understanding that we share some elements. If you have an Egyptian father, you will know some things. You will know some things that others with an Egyptian father and family will know and will understand. And then when you turn out and you are as a woman, very visible, as a lesbian, you present yourself the way that I do with the hair that I have, with the clothes that I wear. You understand that this, in itself, has elements of transgression and how do you manage these elements of transgression?
And the young women who approach me and thank me and tell me that they feel motivated or inspired or supported by me being visible as a politician with all elements of my identity, they might not have the same struggles that I do. They might be quite, let's say, gender conforming or more traditional in, in a way. But they feel that, my example opens up space for them to be different or to live their lives in a self-determined way. And it gives them strength. It empowers them to an extent. And that I found very motivating, again, for myself and for the work that I'm doing. Because often I'm not aware of this additional element, I'm focused on the issues. I want to change certain things or I want to get funding for some projects or organizations so I'm more focused on what I'm actually doing. And often I don't see the effect it has, how it is affecting others in a positive way. So when I get this feedback I'm really grateful for that too.
Raquel: You make some very interesting points there. I wonder because it's two backgrounds, you know, campaigning and politics but they're also inter interconnected.
So tell us, you mentioned being fed up with the NGO world and depending on state funding and, and it can feel a little bit like a symbiotic relationship in which you don't have a lot checks and balances and the institutionalised NGO sector can become an arm of the state, and there's a lot of room for bad practices.
So I want to ask you a little bit about your activism. I'm going to talk to you about your activism and particularly you were involved in ILGA Europe, (International Lesbian and Gay Association) and now people who are involved in, for example, sex and gender conversations. We know ILGA as an organization that perhaps is not doing its best to protect lesbian rights. So, tell us right from the beginning, was there more protection for lesbian rights 10 years ago, 15 years ago in that sector than there is right now?
Faika: First of all, I think the whole area changed completely in the last 25 years. So I say 25 years, because that's when I started my activism and one of the first conferences that I went to, and, and I've been doing a lot of transnational activism, so on the European level or a Pan-European level, also on the national level. But I was really focused a lot on the Pan-European level. And one of the first conferences that I attended, and that was in the late 1990s, was a conference, I think it must have been my first conference, an IGLIO conference. And so IGLIO is the youth group of ILGA and it was fantastic. It was really amazing.
So you're a young person and you meet other young individuals from other countries and you get to understand them and it opens up one new world after the other. There are so many issues that you're not aware of. You're basically quite ignorant. And, and if you can approach each other with openness, it's such a learning experience. So it was wonderful.
And we did have issues, of course there are always issues, but that's not in itself dramatic. You know, you can work through them and resolve them and those conferences, they would be a week. And so you have a dramatic arc. So when does the drama come, and when do you resolve it? And, and when do you leave? Within that time?
The issues back then I remember we would have safer sex workshops. A lot was around HIV/AIDS still, also for lesbians, we would have discussions about violence in same-sex relationships and lesbian relationships also. And in these mixed settings, always, there was one point when we would say, now we would like to have an evening or an afternoon or a workshop that we would make women only. And I remember that it was quite difficult to argue for that because a lot the women, a lot of the men and the organizations in general were opposed to that because they felt that this is a mixed setting and you should not have separatist spaces in this mixed setting.
But there was always the wish coming from the women, to have it. And this is also how then a couple of years later, there was the first women's conference in the context of IGLIO, that the first women's conference was organized. And it was very difficult, back then also, very, very difficult. But it was possible. And it happened and, there were some discussions, but it was not very strongly connected to a trans discussion or a trans issue. But then also back then you did not have discussions on Self-ID. That was just not where the legislation was going.
Raquel: But is that where the NGOs were going?
Faika: No, no, no, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. I think that the NGOs were going for same sex relationships, the recognition of same sex relationships, partnerships, marriage, marriage for all. Adoption rights may be so-called rainbow families. That is what the focus was.
Raquel: Would you be able to pinpoint in your mind the tipping point, the moment in which you shifted from the rights of lesbian and gay people into, well, maybe we need to devote a lot of our time, eventually, maybe all of our time to gender identity issues?
Faika: Well, that's very difficult to say.
I think lesbian rights were never really central. I do not remember that there was easily a focus and extra budget in any way, anything to specifically support lesbians. So it was this lesbian and gay and also bisexual struggle and it was directed very much at institutional inclusion, anti-discrimination legislation, and also sometimes it had a global perspective.
So there was awareness that the situation in western European countries or in the west is not the only reality and not the only context. So there was often that also to, to reach out to communities in different situations and contexts, national and regional.
It was difficult enough to highlight the needs and the situation of lesbians back then, also, and I think it was probably more than 10 years ago when the trans issue did not become something that was seen as a sister brother organizational, development and advocacy focus.
So there are also other groups advocating for their interests and for their rights. And we might have connecting moments and supportive issues, maybe advocacy issues, but became something that really then dominated the work and the strategic plans of the LGBTIQ organizations.
But I think that was also at a point when you had achieved marriage equality, adoption rights, anti-discrimination legislation for lesbians and gays throughout a lot of Western European countries, and basically had almost, or had begun to run out of your advocacy issues.
Raquel: Well certainly it gives you a sense of perspective that not many people can have or share so we're very grateful to be speaking with you today.
So, you know, a woman who comes from the human rights movement that would be a seasoned activist, 15 years in the NGO sector is a seasoned activist. And, and on top of that, a high profile woman and a high profile lesbian who now sits in, in Parliament.
Yet in October, 2022, you found yourself banned from the European Lesbian Conference. And this is something that there's so many levels of how this would be because you used to serve on their board, you used to manage the organization's finances. You help the organization retain its charitable status. And then you found yourself banned from it.
Can you tell us a little bit about why that happened or what they say is the reason that it happened?
Faika: I mean, retrospectively of course, I mean, there are moments in your life that will define you one way or another, and I think this probably is one of those moments for me.
It is something that I never thought would happen, and I never thought it possible, and I, of course, did not wish for it. I really liked the ELC a lot. And also all the women who worked there and who really were very passionate or are very passionate about what they're doing. It was infectious in the way that I also, I was also very engaged, very active, very passionate about the vision that we developed together and set out to have to revive lesbian movements across Europe and Central Asia to amplify lesbian voices, to support lesbian groups and initiatives and communities. And basically also to make lesbian cool again.
There was this slogan that we came up with ‘Lesbian Genius’ to see that there is something positive or so much positive attached to being a lesbian in all the diversity that being a lesbian is and all the realities that we have and so many realities are unknown.
What is the reality of a lesbian woman in Central Asia today, or in rural communities in Eastern Europe? Or in so many different contexts that you have and a lot to do with intersectionality of course.
So having been an activist for so long and then I wasn't in politics. To enter into this sphere of ELC was really also rejuvenating my own activism and my activist bloods that I have in me. So it felt great to, to be involved.
And one of the highlights definitely for me was in 2019 to co moderate the second ELC conference in the Ukraine for three days. And that conference was also very challenging because we were attacked by nationalists who attacked the conference. They attacked the hotel that we were staying in. They threw tear gas into the lobby of the hotel. We had bomb threats. It was quite challenging really, but it was also something where we bonded. Because, you know, you share this experience and then you push through and you continue and you work through your strategic plans and you develop your reports and so I was very involved in, in all of this.
The Ukraine conference was 2019. So I was very involved also in compiling or contributing to the conference report. I wrote a part on inclusion and diversity and intersectionality and also a position paper of the association on intersectionality and inclusion and diversity.
So then last year, when the third conference was announced in Budapest, you, you can imagine that I was very happy to go to a lesbian conference, a big lesbian conference organized by my former association. I had left them by then because also being in Parliament it collided a lot with my work.
I could not invest that much time anymore. So I was very happy to find this conference then taking place in my city of birth, in my home country in a way. And I was very much looking forward to participating and to just, be around other lesbians in a conference setting, because that's what I really enjoy.
I had registered, weeks before the conference, booked a hotel, booked my travel registered as an attendant. There was a registration fee to pay and I registered and yes, I had board members who reached out to me or staff because by then they had staff to reach out to me and to inform me that the conference will be in Budapest to ask me what I would be coming to ask me also for support if I would know of any good venue for the conference.
So I've been loosely in touch with some of them and it all felt quite positive. I was looking forward to seeing them. So, I organized with my work and with childcare because I also have a small child and so to take four days off to go to a conference, it takes some organizational work.
And then I was heading to the train station and checked my emails and that's when I saw that the night before, two minutes to midnight, they had sent me an email informing me that they would not accept my registration, that they would refund the participation fee to me. And the reason that they gave is that my recent public statements would go against their inclusion policy.
They linked a document that I had co-written, in that email, to their paper on inclusion.
Raquel: Did you mention that you were speaking at the conference?
Faika: No, no. I just came as a participant. I had no role whatsoever.
Raquel: No role whatsoever in a conference that is a European conference?
How many people are we talking about here? How many attendees would there be?
Faika: I'm not sure. Eventually how many they had it was a couple of hundred. I think maybe it was between two and 300.
Raquel: The point that I'm making is they singled you out. Obviously. I would object to all of it. But there would be a difference between difference between when organising a conference, we realize at the last minute that we have a speaker that we need to really look into it. There might be an issue, but if it's an attendee who just want to participate in a conference, presumably, you know, so you can listen, so you can engage, so you can do collegial work so that you can share moments with fellow attendees, What would be the problem there?
So, you are on your way to the train station and you get this news. Tell us about it. What was it about?
Faika: I was shocked. I was absolutely in shock. So the train ride is a bit less than three hours and I think it took me the whole train ride to just get my thoughts around and my feelings around what was happening.
Raquel: You went to Budapest?
Faika: Yes, of course. I mean, they really had immediately refunded my participation fee, so I had that notification already that the money was back.
I had a hotel booked for four nights. I had train ticket. I had freed myself from work, and as I said, also from childcare for those four days, of course, I was going. I didn't know what I was doing exactly, but I knew that I would go there. I had been looking forward so much to see some of my fellow activists and colleagues again from other countries, as you just said, to just reconnect with them, to spend time with them, to just be around other activists, other lesbians from throughout Europe and Central Asia.
It's so inspiring to me and it’s what nurtures me really.
Raquel: So you are on the train. You made your way to Budapest and I just want to pause here because you know, Budapest is where you were born, And I wonder, I wanted to ask you, you know, the European Lesbian Conference was due to take place in Budapest, your hometown. The city of your birth. So we know about the politics and the censorship and all that kind of stuff, but like on a human level, what did it felt like to go to your city, the city of your birth, where you just realized that you had been banned from attending a conference by your former colleagues?
Faika: It's impossible to really work through this on an emotional level, what it meant. There were two aspects I want to highlight. I mean, I was very happy to take the train and move towards Budapest and I think it was very healing for me to be in Budapest in that situation because still it was a good emotional context for me, to be in that city, which I consider my city also.
But there are two things I would like to highlight. So one is that I am not a very aggressive person in general, you have to take my word on this.
Raquel: We believe you.
Faika: I can be loud. I can make myself heard and seen. I can stand up for what I believe in, but I'm not a danger to others. I'm not a danger to be around others. I'm not. So what was difficult was that on one level, there was this message sent to me that said others will somehow suffer from your attendance, from being in the same room with you, because there must be some element on some level. So either it's politically difficult for them to bear me attending their event, or it's on a personal level that somebody needs protection from me.
But in any case, politically, I'm a member of Parliament with the Greens, so it's a progressive party. I'm not the right wing person. Everybody knows my track record politically of activism and political work. So what exactly would my offense be on the political level and on the personal level?
As I said, also, I mean, they know me and everybody who knows me should know that there is no danger emanating from me. So that was something that was a very difficult message. And then of course, you have this element of betrayal from people, women that you know, that you've worked with that should know better. Nobody reached out to me.
So I got this message, this email, there was no name. Nobody signed it. It was just the board. And none of them reached out. So there were no personal messages or explanations, but I thought then that the worst part of this was the signal this was sending to others.
So what it said was that we don't even have to point to any specific thing that I said or any heresy that I committed. We can go and police lesbians. What lesbians are thinking, what lesbians are saying, the positions that lesbians might have on various issues that today are issues. We have so many issues that we could discuss where we would not agree, but we as an organization, as an institution can go and we can police this and we can decide who belongs and who does not belong to a context where we say, this is for lesbians.
So what does this then mean? Am I not a lesbian then? Am I not a lesbian? Do I lose the right to be in a lesbian space if my thinking goes wrong, according to their ideas or values that they have? And I thought that was the worst. And of course I could have kept silent about it and nobody would have known.
But I thought that this was really outrageous and a real divisive decision for let's say the movement or communities or lesbians or individuals or feminists or so, and politically, that I decided not to keep quiet about it. And that's what I then did on the train ride that I went onto social media and Twitter and informed, well, everybody.
Raquel: Can we pause a little bit there? Did you know the women involved who made this decision?
Faika: Well, I don't know specifically who it was because it, as I said, the email that I got was not signed.
Raquel: But did you know the organization, the people behind the organisation at that time?
Faika: Well, yes. So I know a lot of them. I don't know all of them because I left towards the end of 2019, in December, 2019. So a couple of years had passed and I didn't know everybody. Of course not, but I know a bunch of them. Yes, I know a bunch of them.
Raquel: So that's hurtful, I mean, doing something to a woman that you know.
Faika: We don't not only know each other. We worked together. We were passionate about things together. We were trying to build something together. We were trying to have sisterhood with each other. We were closely connected. You cannot do these things if you don't have passion. The activism needs something that fuels it, some element of motivation.
And that is very much connected to an emotional energy also of being effectively emotionally turned towards each other. We were connected in such a way. It was not my job; it was not something that I did for rational reasons. It was something that affected all of me and I am sure also the others. So it was a connection on a very deep level, I think.
Raquel: And yet, now you are treated as if you are some sort of nuclear threat. And you have some sort of radiation emanating from you, to the point, that you cannot even sit at a conference and share your thoughts with other people. You know there's things to untangle there.
But before we get too far removed from the question that I wanted to ask.
When you were banned from this conference, did they point out at anything? Well, you said that you want to kill or something? I’m just joking.
Faika: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Of course not. I mean, I never said anything like that.
I never said anything like that. I never said anything extremist. I never said anything wild or hostile. I will stand by this. And also, they did not point to anything specific.
Raquel: What was the document that they attached?
Faika: The document that they attached was a paper from ELC on inclusion. And I contributed to this paper myself when I was still with the ELC. So that's just a general statement on inclusion and so on and so forth, that they are trans inclusive and intersectional and some other things.
But they did not point out how, what I was saying in my public statements, that's how they called it. So I had given a couple of interviews last year, so couple of weeks before they uninvited me. So they did not say what in those interviews or my social media activity was in violation of this paper.
They had a code of conduct for the conference, so they also sent this code of conduct to all the registered participants ahead of the conference. I also received that. So it would make sense to me, you know, if you have a code of conduct, then somebody comes to the conference, violates the code of conduct, it would make sense to me that it might have consequences, but that never, ever even happened. I was not in violation of anything.
Raquel: What were your so-called statements? What were you saying in the interviews that you had given before?
Faika: I will try to think of the worst things that I said
Raquel: not in that sense. I just want to know what were, how did you stick your head above the parapet that sort of put you in the radar of, this woman is now nuclear and we need to isolate her from other lesbians.
Faika: What I did is I gave a big interview where I spoke from my perspective as an activist, as a political activist for human rights and for LGBTIQ rights and as a lesbian woman of colour with a migrant background. I spoke from this position from within so many intersecting communities, and I said that there are developments now that we should address and look at from these perspectives.
And one is that: around the trans issue there are some conflicting subjects or fields, but there are conflicts of interest and we have to address them. And so one is around children and young people and how they should best be protected so that they can explore their identity and their sexuality and develop well into young adults. That's one area.
The other area is how the interests maybe of some trans rights activists are colliding with the interests of women. How we should be able to keep a sense of differentiating between trans women and biological women, and how trans women and trans people should have protection from discrimination.
And we should still be able to say that there is a difference between biological women and trans women.
So I was going through all of these elements and fields. But I was also saying that the dynamics that we have nowadays around these discussions are so harmful and so hurtful that it is almost cult-like. So that there are not only shit storms, but there are massive consequences on a political and social level. People are losing their jobs. They fear that they would lose their jobs. They would feel serious fear, serious repercussions if they would speak out on this topic and if they would say things similar to what I was saying.
So these were the two levels that I was talking on, and I was always making a point to stress that I really believe that trans people should be protected from discrimination and should have respect and appreciation for who they are. But still at the same time, we also need to seriously look at consequences of a new idea, legal approach and regulation that is Self-ID and what Self-ID means for various areas in our society.
Raquel: Absolutely. And that is something that we share at FiLiA as well.
We have always been so clear that we absolutely deplore and condemn any sort of abuse or discrimination against people who identify as trans. And, and that is not a world that we would want to see. We want a world in which everyone is protected, particularly women and girls.
But, but you also spoke out, you know, and I'm reading right now from an article on After Ellen and this was written by one of our trustees, Claire, so she says that you did an interview with Falter, a weekly Austrian news magazine.
You spoke out against a banner encouraging people to punch terfs and you observed that the term terf is an intensely gender slur that is used to demean women specifically. In addition, you challenge the abuse that is thrown against women like Martina Navratilova, JK Rowling, Kathleen Stock who were all sent abusive threatening messages for opposing Self-ID policies on the grounds that they impact women's rights and spaces.
So you were standing up not only as a woman, not only as lesbian, but maybe also as a politician saying, we are normalising the abuse of women. We are in danger of creating a climate that is hostile to women. You spoke out against the abuse of women. And then is it fair to say that you sort of became one of the abused women yourself?
Faika: Yes, I think so. But yes, you are very right. I felt that there was a responsibility that also my public position held this responsibility and commanded me to say something because other women, either they don't have the platforms or the publicity to be heard or they fear repercussions, and that is not trivial. They really fear that if they work in the NGO sector, if they work in academia, if they work in the media, and even also if they work in politics, that the repercussions would be terrible. They would lose their jobs and they might end their careers.
And so I felt that I did not go into politics to look away and to be silent when I see injustice or when I see violence against women justified with whatever, I don't care how it is justified, but this is precisely why I am in politics to address this and to point this out.
So I felt a responsibility to do this, and also from the perspective from within the community. I know all of these discussions, I've been fighting for so many of these things myself. I am gender nonconforming to the point that of course, I myself, struggle with my identity, with being a woman.
I had endless talks with lesbian friends of mine years ago, but also today, when we are talking about what does it mean, would you consider taking hormones? Would you take testosterone? Would you want a double mastectomy? How do you want to live, how do you want to be perceived? All of these discussions, they are not alien to me. I know all of them, it is something that affects me and affects us in the lesbian community or in the LGBTQI community. We know all of this, but this does not mean that we have to be ignorant or should be ignorant or should stand for absolutely ridiculous and dangerous positions. Only because the right wing are saying the opposite. That is not what should move us.
So when it comes to children and young people, for example, we should be able to draw a line and to say, well, what will we do to protect the children and young people in our community?
And also, if they're not in our community, I mean, they are all of them, our children and young people. And for us to be responsible and to say we can draw lines, we can say no. And if it's the same thing that some right wing people are saying, that will not make us leave our positions.
And I think it's really dangerous that the left and the progressives and then also the LGBTIQ communities have lost their courage because this is how the right becomes stronger and stronger.
Raquel: I'm really grateful, that our audience is going to be able to hear the passion in your voice. And that this is coming from a place of wanting to create a better world for everyone because the way that the abuse, the intimidation, the threats, the way that that has spread out, that harms everyone and it harms democracy.
I think that you were doing your duty as a politician to say, no, we draw a line at legitimizing the abuse of women in the name of whatever policy you want to call it, Self-ID or whatever. There is no acceptable form of abuse of women. So it was your duty as a politician.
So, I'm sorry that it happened. It sounds like a very intense episode because so many aspects of it were so personal to you, but I want to say, you were banned from this conference because you spoke out against the abuse and the violence committed against women who defend sex-based rights.
You defended women like Julie Bindel. You defended women like Kathleen Stock. You stood up for JK Rowling and today they are your colleagues. Today, Julie Bindel and Kathleen Stock, the women who you defended in that interview back in 2022, they are heading the Lesbian Project where you are an advisor.
JK Rowling was at the launch party for the Lesbian Project and I think that there's a very kind of beautiful twist in which you went through this horrible episode and I think everyone in our audience will be able to sympathize with how painful this could have been for you.
But then there was a flip side to it, in which now you get a bigger platform from which to advocate for the rise of lesbians. And there's a beauty in the fact that the women who you stood up for and defended, at least the high profile women, you obviously stood up for everyday women, grassroots women, but like the high profile women who you defended, today, you can call them your colleagues.
So tell us a little bit about how you ended up at the Lesbian Project.
Faika: I must say that it is very supportive how some in the feminist movement. I don't want to be too optimistic about it, but some are connected and really want to support each other.
So I have this great activist, lesbian activist from Serbia, for example, who has provided me with so much support who was also there in Budapest and has been checking in with me on a regular basis and she's older and has done so much also for the movement in a very difficult regional and national context, even from before and during the war in Yugoslavia.
And so to be able to connect with such women, some of them older than me, or most of them older than me, has been a very big support. And I think what connects us is an understanding of the alien nation and the accusations and how deeply hurtful they are and how they can affect you profoundly. It was a deep, deep, traumatic experience for me last year, I think, to have been attacked from all sides. The ELC is just an example. It's a very strongly visible example maybe, but it's only one example.
And the attacks came from open letters against me, signed by activists that I had worked with for years and decades, signed by fellow politicians, also from my own party, people denouncing me in every way possible, social media influencers and so on.
So to, to connect with others. And I think that is the value in it. So they don't necessarily have to be very prominent figures or very known women, but to have an understanding, a shared understanding of what's happening and how deep the effect of this is on you as an individual. It truly changed my path, I think, and who I am.
I hope it will not make me a worse person or a more ignorant person. I don't want to become hostile or vile from the wounds that this creates, but I want to remain open and compassionate and empathic and so connecting with other women and Julie Bindel, for example, reached out to me while the conference un- invitation unfolded and offered her support and so did so many others.
That was really something also that got me over the most difficult time when I had started to lose hope because the attacks were just too much and from so many sides and often they were unexpected.
But then what I found was two things I think that I would like to mention in particular. So one was really connecting also on the national level with many women who had similar thoughts and similar concerns like I do and who are feminists and who are engaged in different parts of society. But many of them, are young and are students, and they're also older ones. And we managed to somehow organize and gather and get to know each other.
And that was something that was really motivating to hear from them who would tell me that things changed for them when they read my interview. And they want to be active and they want to organize.
So this is very fulfilling and rewarding to know that again there is an impact that I have on younger ones, on older ones who are not in the position to say what I said and to be visible, but who are motivated and empowered by what I'm doing.
And the other thing that was very important to me, and that's on the activist level, that was attending the LGB Alliance conference in last Autumn, the FiLiA Conference right after that. And also being involved with the Lesbian Project because I was desperate. I thought that all the activist contexts had shunned me and I was so passionate about being able to also express myself on that level and not only as a politician.
And to reconnect with that level and going to the LGB Alliance conference. And I was attacked a lot because I went there and I was speaking at a panel on homophobia. So going to this conference and then also to FiLiA and seeing the hundreds of people and thousands more, more than thousands at FiLiA of women who come together. And they are all passionate about one thing or the other.
And they are affected themselves often by injustices, by violence, they don't give up hope. They do anything that they can in their context, sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger. They are amazing. The energy is incredible. They are so positive and such role models, and that was really what fuelled energy and life back into me and, and totally changed my perspective from - this is the end of everything - to, well, this is a new episode and it will definitely continue and be very interesting and enriching and exciting.
Raquel: It's never the end. It's always a new beginning. Your detractors, wherever they come from, whether it is to you, whether it is to some anonymous woman that we don't even know about yet. What they do to all women who stand up to defend their sex-based rights is that they present this vision of: if you don't recount your heresy, if you do not apologize and grovel to us, we are going to make your life so difficult and you're going to lose all of your support. You're going to be alone. You're going to be shunned and isolated. And what Feminism, the women's movement, what we say to those women is, no. Not only is that not going to happen, but you're going to meet the sisterhood.
All of these women who do have your back, who, I mean, who would have known when you were on that train, I mean, I'm getting really emotional thinking about it, but like when you were sitting on that train on your way to Budapest, there was no way for you to imagine that a year later, you would be going to The LGB Alliance Conference, and then that you would be coming to FiLiA and getting the support and the warmth of all the women there, and then that you would feel emboldened enough to become involved in an organization that is exclusively set up to protect the rights of women and girls who are lesbians.
There's such a character development there that you couldn't have envisioned that when you were on the train and yet there is a future outside of the backlash and all the nasty things that they throw at you.
It sucks that you went through the horrible part and the pain and the struggle, and I can hear how much it affected you, but let's talk a little bit about the Lesbian Project.
So you talk about accepting the fact that you're a lesbian and then from that moment, confronting the world with all of your complex experiences and then the Lesbian Project was launched in Spring 2023. It is led by feminist journalist Julie Bindel and academic and writer Kathleen Stock.
And it is described as:’the Lesbian Project intends to give voice and influence to women whose stories are too often overlooked. The Lesbian Project works to build a knowledge base about lesbian lives, promote sensible and evidence-based policy, and contribute to building lesbian community in the UK and internationally. A non-profit organization. The Lesbian Project is nonpartisan’.
Tell us a little bit about the details of how did you get involved? Did someone say hey, do you want to become a part of this? Or did you volunteer and say, well, I want to be a part of it?
Faika: Oh, yes. In fact, it was the founders, Julie Bindel and Kathleen Stock, who reached out to me and invited me to join their advisory group.
And I think it's very enriching for everybody to have the exchange on the level of what's going on more globally or even on a European level or within the EU. So what we can do is to exchange about this and talk about the policies, the advocacy approaches, and also to have this kind of supports that involves the different national contexts.
I do not necessarily represent the Austrian national context, but as you've said, the various intersecting identities may be that I bring together and confront the world with. And I try to be as visible as possible as a lesbian with everything that I'm doing, not necessarily as, as part of lesbian advocacy, but just to have everybody see me as this is what a lesbian also does.
And it might be as, as I explained at the beginning, inspiring or motivating for other either lesbian women or also not lesbian women, but other women of colour, other women with a migrant background, especially young women, but not only, to see that somebody owns this part of her identity, it is something that I refuse to be ashamed of.
I want to be able to express my sexual orientation on this level of, I am a lesbian, and I express it this way. This does not mean that every lesbian will express it the same way. Not at all. But I want to give space and visibility and ownership to this way of being, which now, and I have not always been like this, you go through phases in your life, but now to me means that it is a very, let's say gender nonconforming way, or what sometimes used to be called a more butch presentation. It is something that just shows a range, a part of the range of the diversity that women and lesbian women can have and can be, and, and how they can be seen.
And to bring this onto the level of politics where I enter the field, the arena, the political arena in such way that I would wear a suit as the men do. I would not show up in colourful dresses and skirts as most female politicians do, when you have also very specific codes around politics and Politicians get scrutinized also in a certain way, and especially the female politicians, to withstand that scrutiny and to say, yes, you will look at me. And yes, I know I will get a lot of misogyny and hateful comments. And they will all evolve around all elements of my identity. So they will attack me for looking like a man and for not belonging to Austria, for not being white, for not being from here, for having a Muslim background. So this all will be mixed to together and this is the material that the attacks against me will be made of. So it will be lesbophobia, racist, anti-Muslim, xenophobic, all of it together. So now apparently there has been a new layer added that I'm also allegedly transphobic and hostile and vile and who knows what, there have been so many accusations.
But, I know that I attract these kinds of attacks, but I will stand and the image of me, my body physically and the projections of me, they are the ones that are countering these accusations. And I want everybody to see and to know that you can stand up to all of this attacks, violence and harassment, and challenge these perceptions of society and the limitations of what women can be.
Raquel: Absolutely. And I think I would say it's not that you attract all of this, pushback on so many different fronts. It is precisely because of who you are that the pushback exists. It's about what you represent. it's about the fact that here's a woman who, when she was meant to shut down, to shut up, maybe to go away, when you face sort of vilification of the first instance, that's when you were supposed to go away. And you didn't, so it's about the fact that by you not going away, you are signalling to so many other women inside of Austria, but also internationally, that they can stand up and they can endure the negative aspects because there are negative aspects. You can endure it, and after that you can thrive.
You don't have to live a life of endurance. You can live a life in which you're actually doing very well and be happy and be prosperous and have colleagues and launch new projects and start organizations and do things that you're passionate about. They don't have to delineate at the end of it. All of these pressure sort of like connects you to other women who are now shining brighter, brighter than ever. Look at Kathleen stock. Look at Julie Bindel, JK Rowling all of these people.
I have a couple of questions before we end our podcast. And one of them is the state of lesbian rights around the world, because we've talked about the rise of lesbians, maybe in Austria, but I'm looking at what happening to women in many other countries, and it's a very dire situation. For example, when you think about the Kakuma Camp, which is one of the largest refugee camps, that's currently right now in Kenya. At FiLiA we had the Kakuma campaign, which is shedding light on a group of women who have been identified by the United Nations as lesbians.
So they are put in a block, block 13, and then in this refugee camp, these women who are fleeing States where they face abuse and violence, possibly certain death. They go to his refugee camps. And then if the refugee camps, the lesbians there are facing more abuse, more violence, the institutions that should be stepping up, the relevant governments that should be stepping up are also not helping.
And that's just like in this refugee camp. But then if you look at situations like what's happening in Uganda, we cannot end this podcast without discussing that horrible piece of legislation that went through last month in May in Uganda, that banned certain same sex acts. And also that imposes a 20-year sentence for ‘promoting homosexuality’, which campaigners say would criminalize any advocacy of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. So that is the context in which the Lesbian Project comes in, but that is also the context in which advocacy for lesbian rights is taking place.
So do you look to the future with hope? Or how do we move forward when there are such things are so dire for so many women on this issue?
Faika: Yes. I think I always want to look towards the future with hope, but not in a passive way. It's not as if things will just suddenly get better if I hope for it enough, but to have hope and to have activism or political work, or at least to take an interest in what's going on and to point out how dramatic it is.
And I think there are so many very dramatic contexts and what you've described is one of them.
The situation in general for women and specifically for lesbian women. So for women who want to be with other women and to live with other women and who refuse to be in a heterosexual relationship or marriage and who are exposed then very differently to violence very real forms of violence, in addition to, well, just being a woman. But also to exclusion, discrimination, stigma affecting their whole livelihood and perspectives and future. And I think that within the feminist movements and women's groups and projects and initiatives, we really have to face that.
And, and the way that you at FiLiA are doing this with certain specific projects, and that just to, in general, be aware of the different, the very different national and regional contexts. So there's national legislation as you've mentioned with Uganda, and there are societies that sanction any transgression. And to them it is a transgression if women, lesbians, but also men as gays do not behave in the way that they want to have them behave as part of their very strict, heterosexual, heteronormative, patriarchal society and how to break free of this. And you really need to have the advocacy element, I think an advocacy level, but also the realities on the ground so that you can actually live in a way that you are not affected or killed by violence and can live in a good way.
So I'm thinking specifically about things that Vaishnavi Sundar, for example, also presented at the panel of the LGB Alliance conference where I was sitting with her, of the situation for women and lesbian women in India. but I'm also thinking about the realities of lesbian women in Eastern European countries, central Asian countries, where there is hardly any room for stepping out of the expectations and the regulations of the straight and patriarchal society around you. And then in this situation, you don't have any support. And I mean also financial support on the national level. And the only support that you can get and the only money that comes in usually is attached to ideology. So I find it very worrisome that you will then have big foundations that fund say LGBTIQ work, or sometimes it's funding of human rights work or funding in general for civil society and democracy. And they would provide maybe small funds or small grants for your work and for your group and for your project or organization. But they would tie it to the work that you should then do, and they
So I've heard from a number of groups that said that they had to refuse such funding and money coming in because they did not want to do the lobbying for Self-ID, for example, for trans legislation because sometimes they don't do any advocacy on that level at all but also mainly because they are focused on the situation of lesbian women and girls and violence against them. And they do not want to broaden their strategic or political work in that sense.
Raquel: There are decisions that need to be made then at that point of, okay, if you want this pot of money for the project that we care about the condition is the string attached, is you have to promote Self-ID or promote something else that goes against your strategic aims. Not many NGOs make the call of, we're going to stick by our principles. At least that's been my experience looking at civil society and how this topic operates.
Faika: Yes, it's very difficult. It's very difficult for them to survive, but also to experience this interest in what they are actually doing. So they're not getting money because they work for and with lesbians, but they will get money if they have a sufficient number of trans board members of non-binary staff members and so on.
And this is a form of imperialism and of imposing certain Western beliefs and ideologies on a diverse movement and a feminist movement and on women's projects in a way that makes it very difficult then for them to survive. I don't think it's impossible at all, because there are ways and often also with very little money, you can achieve a lot.
But this is also what pushes many grassroots groups into a certain political direction.
Raquel: And also it's a very unequal bargain because if you have situations like for example, what's happening in many countries in the global south, where some rights that are taken for granted, for example in England or in Austria, those have not taken place in other countries.
So for example, the women in Uganda, the women in the Kakuma refugee camp, their needs are very material, and then if the conditions to support women who are facing so much material oppression because of the fact that they are lesbians, if that is conditioned on something that goes completely against same sex attraction, then that puts those women in a very unequal position to women in wealthier countries.
Faika: Yes, it is. It is also absolutely ignorant of the situation and then of the realities and the needs of the women. It's absolutely ignorant and it does not prioritize their wellbeing at all. The funders are not interested in knowing more about the needs and then providing funding to meet them and to change or to improve the realities. They are not interested in that at all. They come with their own strategic priorities and they want to push for some issues that are the reality in some of the western countries or western European countries, and it is not contextualized at all. And they don't listen to the voices of those who are doing the work on the ground at all.
And especially they do not prioritize the needs of women and girls and lesbians. It's not a strategic priority no matter what funding organization you look at. You will see, if you look at the reports, you will see how much they spend on pushing and advancing the rights of intersex people, of trans people, of non-binary people, and of other populations. And in none of these reports will you see a priority for lesbians or for women and girls. It's just not the reality at this moment.
And of course then, the national governments in whatever nation, they don't have that priority either. So nobody is prioritizing women and, and that is just stunning to understand how in 2023, with everything that's going on with the level of violence that women are experiencing, this is not given a priority by anyone.
Raquel: And the rights of intersex people are completely different to the interests of people who identify as non-binary, so the fact that they're lumped together is just bizarre. But the Lesbian Project prioritizes women and lesbian rights.
And, I'm so grateful that that is now an element in the ecosystem. It has been so grim for so long. And, and we can see from this podcast, the trajectory. I come from 15 years in the NGO sector, and then the same sector where you belong to, try to repudiate you for the defending women's sex based rights.
But then the women's movement sort of says, no, but you're one of us and we will support, and the sisterhood is here.
So it's very interesting life story. I'm sure it, it must have felt at many points frustrating and sad and despair and all of these horrible emotions, but there's also very beautiful emotions that I think we need to maybe shout a little bit more about.
So, I have a couple of questions before we end the podcast and one of them is, after everything that we have discussed, and I'm so grateful for you giving us so much of your time. I'm sorry it has gone on for a little bit long, but after everything that we have discussed, do you have advice for a young woman, I mean, think about you, free politics before you enter parliament, before you started campaigning for sex-based rights, knowing everything that you do know now, do you have any advice for young women who want to also stick their head out of the parapet or who want to maybe dip their toes into politics and all of the responsibilities that that entails?
Faika: Yeah, I mean it's two different things. I think. One is the, the strategies that you need to get into politics and then to survive in politics, especially party politics. And I think you have to know and understand that with politics you cannot compare it to the NGO sector or to anything in civil society.
Politics is defined by power and power struggles and patterns and by competition. So, you are in constant competition. Well, not only with, and much less actually, with other political parties, but with those within your own party. And they will come and they will stab you. The reasons are so intricate.
There is no gratefulness within this political party work. There is no friendship within this political party work. There might be alliances. But to truly understand this and then to ask yourself, why are you doing it? What is your mission? What do you want to achieve? Do you do it because you believe in a party ideology in in the party program?
Or do you want to dedicate yourself to implementing this party program? Is this what motivates you or what is actually driving you? And, and do you set yourself a bar? Do you say, I want to accomplish this and this and that? And if I find that I cannot, then maybe I will be willing to move out of it. And then to say, okay, to achieve this, I have to do something else and something different.
Because there is this danger that all of this sucks you in. And then at one point you believe the things that are also in parts only slogans and phrases.
So you always have to remain an individual, I think, I would advise. remain also an individual and not give yourself up completely to something that is a program, an ideology as I would say with any area, every field even if you move into certain feminist groups or, or theories.
Do you actually really agree with everything and with all a hundred percent or would you say, well, this, I agree with and this less so.
And also, can you then speak up? this is not about the whole gender identity question. It is in general, can you speak up if you think that something or someone is wrong? Do you find that you can do it? And can you do it in a way that is productive and constructive, not to just cause chaos, but to contribute and to encourage and to demand a debate. And what does it do with you if you keep being the one who does it? Will it alienate you?
And if so, if you're alienated, do you still have a support system outside? So for politics, that would be, do you have others outside of politics that would support you even if they are not able to understand what's truly going on? because I think it's difficult to understand if you're in politics, then most probably, almost all of the time will be shaped by it.
You don't have a lot of time to interact socially with others outside of politics or outside of your party. And for others to understand the decisions that you take all the time. How far can you follow your conscience? what are the compromises that you are making? And where do you draw a line?
And you have to be able to think these things through and reflect upon it, relating it to your basic and first motivation, why you are actually doing this in politics and why not in civil society? Why not in media, in academia, and so on. And, and this motivation will be different. But if your motivation only is I want a career in politics, then forget all of the things that I just said, then that's not the right advice for you.
But if you're driven by a cause or by a passion, then I think you should be really aware of how difficult a terrain you are moving into and that first and foremost, politics is not a safe space. And it's not supposed to be. It should not be, what you need to be equipped to deal with it, you need to be able to defend yourself, to shield yourself, but also to, to attack and to have strategy and to have allies and support systems and to really approach it strategically and to think about who you are, what system you are in, and, and how you can move through it. And if you cannot do this alone and on your own, which I think is very logical, and find those people who can help you do it.
Especially, I would say, look to older women because they have a lot of experience and different perspectives that can be very enriching and very supportive. And I think everybody's very lucky if they find an older mentor to prepare them and to accompany them into this.
Raquel: A powerful sentence that you just said right there, you said, how far are you willing to follow your conscience, in politics and just in life in general, how far are you willing to follow your conscience? It's so fundamental to the feminists work that all of us are seeking to do, that was fantastic. Thank you so, so, so much.
Faika: Thank you.
Raquel: And you also touched on my final question which is, you know, we discussed so many things that are really heavy and most of our conversation has been talking about, the lesbian rights, but also your career as a politician, the NGO sector, the backlash that you've received within your circles, former circles. And something that I've been thinking throughout is: how do you look after yourself so that you have the energy to go back into battle the next day? How do you? I mean, if you were to speak to another woman who sort of wants to dip her toes. How do you summon the energy, like how you mentioned that, you have to know how to shield yourself and protect yourself, but you also have to be in the attack many times, and that requires energy.
So how do you make sure that you have the endurance within you to face the negatives and then keep pushing forward because you know that there's a positive ahead?
Faika: That's a very difficult question. I can try and answer it for myself, but I think that the first problem with this is that I think it will be different for everyone, different for every woman. Depends so much on, on who you are and your experiences and what gives your strength and what you need.
I do not need prolonged periods on my own, for example. So on the contrary, to me, it nurtures me if I am with others, if I'm surrounded by others, just to listen to them, to hear their experiences, this is something that really motivates me and it's also why I enjoyed the activism so much and the transnational work, the conferences to meet others with different perspectives.
So really, the farther away it is from me, the more it speaks to me because it challenges me in very productive ways. So if somebody has an experience, in a very different national context from me, I think it opens up my thinking and my world and my own understanding to their realities.
And I understand better, I understand more and I really value and appreciate that. So I'm appreciative of both differences that we have with each other and among each other. And the common elements.
There is this one lyric from a song. I'm not sure what the song is, but from Ani DiFranco where she sings: ‘I know there is strength in the differences between us and there is comfort where we overlap’.
And I, I felt that was very, very true and spoke to me a lot. And that's also why I believe that it's so important to be able to name the differences between us, because that is something how I also come into existence.
If somebody acknowledges that there are differences, they might not all be relevant or, or relevant at all times, but to acknowledge these differences.
But to come back more precisely to your question, I can only say what motivates me. And that is music. It's sun, the sun gives me a lot of energy.
And just to do things, enjoying myself with my strength, my physical strength, my body. So to experience myself, maybe physically working out, getting on a bike, doing things like that. That is something that works well for me. And it might be so for others or different, but I think anything that makes you laugh, but laugh on the inside.
That's good. That is phenomenal.
Raquel: That's good. That is phenomenal Faika, this has been amazing. So thank you so much for being with us, thank you so much for dedicating your time with us.
Faika: It was my pleasure. Thank you.
Raquel: It has been amazing. Thank you for listening.