Meet Inna Sovsun from Ukraine
Values matter for Inna Sovsun. Whether it is speaking up against injustice, standing up for a colleague, or debating ideas, it is important for her to tell the truth and be respectful to her opponents. Two rare qualities for a politician these days.
Inna Sovsun is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada, from the liberal political party "Golos". She tackles issues like gender equality, education, and climate change. Outspoken yet humble, she fights fiercely for what she believes in but always makes sure her statements are based on facts and backed by research.
Being a university professor at the Kyiv School of Economics, Inna Sovsun loves a good debate. “We should learn to argue about principles”, she says.
For the 37-year-old lawmaker, politics is a long game. She thinks that to achieve long-lasting change, one has to be patient and persistent. Let’s take gender equality for example.
In the current Ukrainian parliament, 21% of the members are women. This is a small number, given that women are 51% of the population in the country, but double that of just a decade ago.
But most importantly, culture is slowly changing to challenge the norm of sexist politics in Ukraine and react to the unfair treatment of women.
“I hear the word sexism so often in the parliament. It's mostly: is this sexist? Can I say that? They can fake it. I don't care. Even if they don’t see the problem but know it’s not acceptable, it is good enough for me”, Sovsun says. “Because whenever someone makes a sexist comment, the active part of society reacts. And that wasn't the case 10 years ago”, she explains.
This is partially due to women politicians like Sovsun who have stood up against injustice. Her speech in parliament against a male MP’s sexist remark prompted an action by the Rada’s Ethical committee. And even though their decision to suspend the man for several sessions was overruled in Parliament, it sparked a huge societal debate.
That’s why for this lawmaker, it is important to speak up for those others who don’t and she is the first to defend colleagues degraded because of their gender.
Being a member of a small opposition party in parliament, Inna Sovsun is aware that passing legislation is a hard task to accomplish. But she knows that political representation is valuable. “I came to realize that there are lots of people whose positions are not being represented, and whose positions are often viewed as marginal, but they are not. It is just that no one has ever had the strength or willingness to speak on their behalf”, she adds.
Being the youngest deputy minister of education and science back in 2014, Sovsun entered parliament with education policies as her main agenda. But later on, she transferred to the Energy committee to address climate change and promote it as an important topic in the public discourse.
“I knew that simply caring about climate change, without having the challenge to deal with it directly in my everyday work, wouldn't do the job. I decided to transfer to the Energy Committee and it's been a huge challenge for me. It's very complicated, very much influenced by major interest groups. But I'm really happy that I did that”, she says.
Sovsun is now putting her efforts to educate the general public on the topic and show people that dealing with climate change can also solve some of their most pressing problems, such as costly utility bills.
Helping political refugees from Belarus start a new life in Kyiv, Inna Sovsun is also a firm believer that Ukraine can step up as a regional power, promoting democracy and liberal values.
“When we were protesting on the Maidan, we were very thankful for any word of support we would get from abroad. And I believe it is our moral duty to do the same for others”, Sovsun concludes.
In parliament, she would be the first to defend a female colleague, who was degraded because of her gender, even if she disagrees with her politics.
“We have to recognize that dealing with climate change is going to cost. And we have to educate the public about that”, she adds. “We also have to admit that it's going to take time for people to get used to this and realize that this is a pressing issue. And I think we just have to be patient.”