Right now I’m on my way to Brussels to spend two awesome days with OBESSU’s (Organising Bureau of European School-Student Unions) Working Group on renewing the Political Platform. I am excited to work with the team and try to make as good of a policy document as possible.
Anyhow, this time I have news. Yesterday was the end of Elevriksdagen 2017, the general assembly of FSS (The Swedish-speaking School-student’s union of Finland), and that marked the end of my mandate as vice president. In exchange, I was elected president of this NGO, the organisation that has had my heart and soul for the last three years. So since today, I’m working full time with education policy and leading a union of students. In the taxi yesterday I turned around and asked Alexander, “Wait, so I am the president of FSS now?”, and he confirmed. Whaaaaat.
The weekend was extremely emotional, to say the least. To understand this from my perspective, we have to go back 15 years in time. I usually answer “at age 14”, when someone asks when my political engagement started, but that’s not the whole truth. It all started when the year I turned three, I was put in a day care club for 3 h/day, 3 times a week. Now from this time I remember being angry a lot, having a particular conversation with one of the group leaders over and over again.
Me: “I’m never gonna go to school!”
Her: “You have to. Everyone has too.”
Me: “No! My grandma says you only have to die!”
Her: “But Bicca, school is good for you, and you have to go there.”
Me: “No! I don’t want to! It’s unfair to force children to sit still!”
And it went on and on and on…
Now this was 4 years before I needed to go to school, and I didn’t have an actual clue about what it was I was fighting against. But it was there I started to worry about children’s rights, freedom of speech and thought, fairness and equality. I hated being a child (it’s true, ask my parents), because I didn’t feel I was being treated as an equal. Which is very understandable, since I didn’t always know what I was doing, and I had yet to realise education is frankly the best tool to change the world and one of the most important rights a child has. But I still hated it, and therefor, I started caring about the art of Changing the Society, which later became my biggest passion.
People have always described me as passionate. They’re right for sure. I’ve also been called radical and cheeky, and actually yesterday I was complimented for having outgrown that behaviour. Haha. As if. Wanting to change the world is radical, and in order to do that at a young age, you have to be cheeky most of the time. I’ve just become better at covering it as good rhetoric, I hope.
Truth to be told, I’m still a bit surprised no one decided to candidate last minute to try and stop me. I’m not necessarily the typical calm leader you’d want to have in a youth organisation where people get their first board experiences. I also tend to be very straight forward with my hate of unnecessary rules regulating minors and others, playing games and using colorful post-its, flip-charts and pens as means of making a change. And these three combined makes up most of what’s going on in the youth sector of NGO’s and other arrangements for youth participation. So in that sense, the election was quite a surprise. I still haven’t figured out how to deal with all of that, but we’ll see.
The last weekend was an emotional roller-coaster. I worried so much about not voting through a political platform that I could support, especially when there was a amendment to make FSS opinion on the voting age a hell of a lot more conservative. Vote@16 has been one of my key issues for as long as I can remember, and it has become somewhat of a dealbreaker for me. I will be working for minors rights and for youth rights to participation and influence hopefully for as long as I’m alive, and couldn’t imagine myself shutting up about that for a full year. It’s like asking me to pretend the world is fair and we’ve reached 100 % equality between all people. Just can’t.
Then on another level, I’ve felt this great, great nostalgy and thankfulness towards the old boards I’ve been in, and to all the amazing people I’ve gotten to work with. No truth unspoken, I’ve also felt a great relief for some certain areas of work being finished.
I want to take this chance to express my biggest thank you’s here.
First, I want to thank Jooa, my vice president-colleague, who gave my support speech. A wonderful colleague, although very different from me, a friend and one of the most talented, intelligent people I’ve met in my life.
Second, I want to thank Malin & Sofia, who both put their heart and soul into this weekends GA, and have done an outstanding job keeping FSS together this year. I respect and adore both of you, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for how much you’ve inspired me.
To the rest of the board 16-17. Thank you for everything, I’ve learned so much from each and everyone of you.
To all the NGO-people from the whole world, you’re the main reason I’ve gotten anywhere. It’s been your votes, your hugs, your words, your belief in me that has kept me going. I’m proud to say I know a lot of the world’s future leaders, and I will do my best to support all of you the way you’ve supported me. You inspire me.
I will mention a couple of names. Teodora and Natasa, UNSS-alumnis from FSS sister in Serbia, your endless support and pep-talks has formed me and helped me forward when it’s been rough. The people at the OBESSU-office and -board, thank you for never underestimating me, but giving me oppurtunities I couldn’t possibly have dreamed of. Boardmembers, actives and personnel at the Finnish Youth Co-operation Allianssi, especially Laura and Heli, for making space and trusting me to do really important stuff. I appreciate all of it. Emma from STTK-student’s, for giving me the pep-talk that made me decide to run in the first place back in November. Last year’s board of Helsinki high-school student’s, for showing me my Finnish is good enough, and that I could have a future in politics in Finland.
To Alexander (and Sofia again) (don’t know in what category to put you, so you get your own), for being an amazing friend, and always, always telling me I can do it. Like literally even when I can’t reach stuff you’ve put on the upper shelves.
To my grandmothers and godmother(s), for not babying me, but taking me seriously and challenging me in coversation. It’s been a true blessing.
To Mom, Dad and Hannah. Thanks for not always telling me to shut up about politics at the dinner-table, for not blaming me too much for choices that influenced our family’s life, for not standing in the way at any point. I love you more than any words can ever express.
To all other loved and close ones, I’ve learned so much from so many of you.
And to Tekla. To the woman that made me fear less, by showing me over and over again that she’s there if I would ever fall. For loving me when I least deserve it and need it the most. For unconditionally being every part of a support network you’d ever need.
My last thank you goes to the bullies, the people who haven’t believed in me, and the people who’ve pushed me down and disrespected me. Without you, I would never have realised how important it is to make change and never give up.