Anni Saga Hirvelä

Anni Saga Hirvelä

Accredited Parliamentary Assistant, European Parliament, Co-Founder of the Project

My way of influence is Being a Professional. It is through my profession and professional network I have been able to influence and make a change and advocate for women’s rights at the workplace. This way to influence has been the most important part of my career and it inspires me to continue to work for the rights and well-being of women.

My favourite quote is “We cannot know for certain how things will develop, but we must believe that in the end it will all be alright - otherwise this life makes no sense.”

I started working at the European Parliament in autumn 2017. My role as an Accredited Parliamentary Assistant to a Member of Parliament and working in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality gave me an opportunity to directly influence and work for the rights of women. A year later, me and my colleagues successfully launched the #MeTooEP (#MeToo European Parliament) movement and blog – a movement created to raise public awareness of sexual harassment and abuse in the European Parliament.

As a young woman, I have faced challenges on my professional career path. I have felt the need to work twice as hard, and speak twice as loud in order to be taken seriously. Silencing women is, in my opinion, one of the greatest challenges we women face today at the work place and in society – the EU institutions are no exception.

In October 2018, me and my colleagues launched the #MeTooEP movement and blog. The goal is to raise public awareness of sexual harassment and abuse in the European Parliament. On the blog, we share anonymous testimonies from victims of sexual harassment. #MeTooEP demands the full implementation of the European Parliament resolution on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU adopted by a vast majority in October 2017.

#MeTooEP is a movement of workers with diverse backgrounds and nationalities working for different political groups in the European Parliament. Today we are still fighting against the conservative forces in the European Parliament who oppose the measures in the resolution. As an institution elected by and representing European citizens, the European Parliament should set the standards for respect and dignity in the workplace. For the EP elections in May 2019, we also launched the #MeTooEP election pledge, which was signed by the EP President, by almost all the political group leaders and by over 300 Members. The pledge included MEPs signing up to reform measures aimed at preventing sexual abuse and harassment in the European Parliament as well as committing to advocating for wider change in society including calling for a EU Directive on combatting violence against women. In June 2019, we were awarded the EU Ombudsman Special Award for our work to raise awareness for zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. One of the greatest achievements of this initiative was that we managed to break the culture of silence in the European Parliament. We have succeeded to encourage victims to speak out, and to overcome their feelings of fear, shame and guilt that prevent them from sharing their stories.

Women will continue to face challenges when fulfilling the professional way to influence. Gender balance and gender mainstreaming is needed in order to avoid women from being silenced and put aside from important decision-making. We women need to keep our voices heard and help other women in the professional sphere as well – amazing things can happen when women support women.

Women are more likely to advocate for the rights of the most vulnerable in society - women can make the change and make equality a norm in business, politics and society. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development. Women must not be afraid to take on the role as an influencer in the global community: we must be a part of the decision-making processes, negotiations and in the law making processes. We must have a say in the decisions that affect us.

The right to speak is a form of wealth that is being redistributed - silence and powerlessness go hand in hand. Women must be given a voice! If women are questioned, belittled or silenced it is a slippery slope to women loosing their ability to report for example gender based violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexism and abuse. Being able to speak, to be heard, to be believed, are crucial parts of membership in a family, a community, a society. By redefining whose voice is valued, we redefine our society and its values.