MMM MP, Joanna Bérenger got involved in politics to contribute to the transformation of our society. Parliamentarian and candidate for the next legislative elections, she answers our questions.

Can you tell us about your career in politics?
In 2010, I joined a regional branch in constituency no. 16 of the MMM as a simple activist, but with the strength of my convictions. I also participated in the Jeunesse Militante and I was elected secretary in 2018. I campaigned for the party as a field activist throughout these years, including for the general and municipal elections and the election partial election in 2017. Subsequently, I joined the central committee through an election in 2018, and I am today in the Political Bureau, being a deputy. I am also president of the Sustainable Development Commission.

What do you like about politics?
I would say that it is the exchange of ideas, whether on a radio set, in Parliament or in the field. I also like the idea of ​​making my contribution to a better society, just like the hummingbird carries its drop of water to put out the forest fire.
Internally, I particularly appreciate the culture of debate within the MMM. The strong friendships I have made with activists of all ages and backgrounds are also very dear to my heart. The culture of debate, frank discussions and mutual support are, for me, a source of great satisfaction in politics.

How do you make your voice heard?
I share and express myself a lot through social networks, but also during press conferences, through parliamentary questions and speeches in Parliament, as well as in the field and through meetings in the forums to which I am invited .

Who do you get this character trait from?
Outrage, activism or political engagement is not a hereditary trait. The taste for commitment comes first and foremost from an observation that everyone can make of the current state of the country. It is up to everyone to choose their commitment.

Everything is political. What will differentiate me from another person is the degree of commitment to making a change. Choosing to sort your waste is an activist act, just as much as defending a bill for the implementation of waste recycling in Mauritius.

What is your opinion on the question of the quota for better female representation in politics?
Taking a cue from Elizabeth Badinter, quotas are not a good thing because it would mean that women would be unable to gain power on their own. That said, the Mauritian context is particular and I think that quotas would help create opportunities for women. It is with this in mind that the MMM proposed that the 1/3 quota established for municipal elections also be applicable for general elections. Unfortunately, our proposal was rejected. That said, legal changes will remain cosmetic if mentalities do not evolve in parallel.

Is the MMM leading by example?
I emphasize that to set an example, the MMM has included parity in its central committee since 2016. Each regional committee is represented by a man and a woman. We did it in the youth wing also because we believe that better representation of women in decision-making bodies will only advance the fight for parity.

Some voices are being raised to assert that women candidates must not only benefit from a quota, but also demonstrate specific skills. What do you think ?
It depends on what skills you're talking about. If you are talking about the skills of empathy towards the public, of understanding the ills that plague our society and of proposing to remedy them, yes these skills are essential. But they are no more so for women than for men!

In your journey, have you encountered any specific obstacles due to your gender?
Holding parliamentary work at night is not easy to reconcile with family responsibilities. In a society still imbued with a patriarchal mentality, women were until now much more involved in the education of children than men, who were much more likely to get involved in politics. It is no coincidence that the “rules” put in place by them are more beneficial to them than to women. But, the “rules” need to change if we want to achieve parity. I also asked, in 2020, that Parliament set an example and offer the services of a “crèche” for all employees and parliamentarians.

I would also say that campaigning while pregnant was not easy. Then, after giving birth, I chose to breastfeed, but I had no place to withdraw my milk or breastfeed my baby in Parliament. The Assembly clerk kindly lent me her desk so that I could remove my milk every 3 hours, and the removed milk was kept in the canteen fridge, behind the Sprite and Coke, because after a few hours my ” Cool box” was no longer cooling sufficiently.

The problem would not have arisen if there was the possibility of benefiting from the services of a “crèche” on site. If I didn't have the support of another woman, I certainly would have had to stop breastfeeding.

Is it hard to be a “Bérenger”?
More generally, when I threw myself into the arena, there was also the fact of bearing the name “Bérenger”. When you have the same surname as the one who heads the party, you face sometimes inevitable trials of intent. I did not get involved in politics for a position.

Would better female representation in Parliament contribute to improving governance and public policies in Mauritius?
Women are actively involved in preserving the environment in the face of global warming and the loss of biodiversity. This is the great fight of the century. Perhaps they are getting more involved at this level, because studies show that climate change affects the most vulnerable first, and women are among them due to cultural and socio-economic factors. Statistics also show that women are more involved in action and not enough in places of real decision-making even though they should be part of the discussions and ecological solutions. The election of more women is therefore crucial for the future of humanity.

Do women embody a different type of leadership?
Women govern differently and the COVID-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated this. Managing this pandemic requires qualities of communication, clarity and empathy. Moreover, a British study published at the end of July 2020 by the World Economic Forum concluded that “results are systematically and significantly better in countries led by women” during the first wave of the epidemic. These better results can be explained by the difference in leadership, the speed in decision-making, associated with a certain humility, great transparency and a lot of education.

What message would you like to send to young Mauritian women who are hesitant to get involved in politics?
It is when we have more women in politics that the rules of the game, established mainly by men, will change and the decisions taken at the highest level will truly benefit everyone. So get involved, ladies!

It is essential to normalize the presence of women in the political sphere. If we represent more than half the population, why wouldn't it make sense to be proportionally represented in all spheres of society? I think the rules of the game will change when we are all convinced that progress for women means progress for society, and when women are as represented as men.

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