Barbara Serra of Al Jazeera News sat down with Inna Shevchenko, the leader of the international women’s movement FEMEN, in Perugia on Saturday to talk about her activism fighting against authoritarian regimes.
“We understood that we have to make people listen to us in other ways, so we transformed our body into a political poster and into our loudspeaker,” Shevchenko said, explaining the reasons why FEMEN began using its controversial topless protest methods.
She also discussed the experience of living in exile, and responded to questions about the push-back that FEMEN has received from opponents around the world – including other feminist groups. She emphasised that FEMEN is meant to be only one part of the larger fight for women’s rights.
“FEMEN’s role is to make the headlines and to start the debate. I see our role as provocators,” Shevchenko said. “And then later on, feminists and humanists with other tactics will follow on to continue reaching new horizons.”
Shevchenko also commented on the upcoming elections in Ukraine, noting that the popularity of the candidate Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian with no previous political experience, reflects the state of fatigue and mistrust in politicians among the Ukraine public today.
“I understand the people’s choice. There is a comedian, and then there are four other candidates who have been ruling the country for decades, including politicians who were part of the dictatorial regime of Yanukovych,” she explained. “I have mixed feelings. I am frightened and afraid by the choice, but at the same time I understand that people want a different future.”
Despite her continued exile and the resistance to the FEMEN movement, Shevchenko remains optimistic about the future of the women’s movement around the world.
“I am dreamer. I think you cannot be an activist and fight for a better world without being a little bit of a dreamer and being a maximalist.”
The full conversation can be viewed at: https://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2019/in-conversation-with-inna-shevchenko
Priscille Biehlmann – volunteer press office IJF19