PARIS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Three female candidates lead the race to be elected mayor of Paris in polls later this month, and they are all promising to tackle the problems faced by women in the French capital.
The Socialist party incumbent Anne Hidalgo and her rivals, the conservative former justice minister Rachida Dati and Agnes Buzyn of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist ruling party, all say they have personally faced sexism in their careers.
Less than one in five mayors in France today is female and nearly half of all locally elected women politicians say they have been subjected to sexist comments during their mandate, according to a study by the feminist collective NousToutes.
These are the three leading candidates and their election pledges:
Paris’s mayor since 2014 and the first woman to hold the role was born in Spain and moved to France with her family aged 2.
She was one of the first women to work as a labor inspector in France in the early 1980s, before entering politics in 2001.
During her first term Hidalgo, 60, banned adverts deemed sexist, homophobic or degrading, after a campaign for fashion house Saint Laurent featuring sexist images of women that was widely criticized.
If re-elected, she has pledged to train the city’s police to help tackle violence and harassment of women. She has also pledged to provide free sanitary products girls and women who cannot afford them.
The former justice minister grew up in an impoverished family of Moroccan and Algerian origin, the second of 12 children.
A rare immigrant success story in France, where few Muslims hold positions of influence in government, academia, business or the media, Dati worked at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London and as a magistrate.
She gave birth to a daughter while serving as justice minister in 2009, declining to name the father, and attracted criticism for returning to work five days later.
“Sexism was at its worst when I was pregnant,” she later told Marie Claire magazine.
“I was criticized for my age, my daughter’s paternity. I overhead remarks about my clothes, that I was ‘too sexy’, just because I wasn’t dressed in the baggy maternity wear that was expected of me.”
Now 54, Dati has said she wants to strengthen security on all public transport in the Paris region, citing a report that 51 percent of women do not feel safe, against 38 percent of men.
Buzyn, daughter of a Holocaust survivor from Poland who emigrated to France in the 1950s, served as health minister in Macron’s centrist government until February, when she resigned to run for the Paris mayor elections.
A medical practitioner and university professor, she was just 30 when she was named director of haematology at the renowned Necker hospital in Paris and later became head of France’s National Cancer Institute.
She has called out sexism in medicine, encouraging men to rebel against sexual harassment alongside women.
“A woman who reacts to sexist comments is never taken seriously,” she told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
“Like many women, I have had to face inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. Clinical directors would tell me ‘come and sit on my knee’. Unbelievable things that would make everyone laugh.”
As mayor, she has said she would introduce safe carriages, staffed with security agents from 10pm and open to everyone, on the metro and the suburban train network.
Her program also includes 50 hours of free childcare every year for single-parent families.
Reporting by Reporting by Elena Berton; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org
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