The main building of Åbo Akademi University.

Hope for a Liberal, Open and Humane World

We got in touch with Frida Sigfrids through our Finnish friend Martin in Denmark. Frida grew up in a bilingual family, speaks Finnish with her mother, Swedish with her father and both languages ​​with her brother. She went to Swedish-speaking schools and university. Frida became politically active as a teenager, and we met her in the Parliament House in Helsingfors, where she works for a member from the Swedish People's Party (SFP).

The conversation ended with her giving a tour of the impressive neoclassical building from 1931 by the architect J.S. Sirén. It was almost empty because the negotiations to form a government after the elections in April 2023 were taking place elsewhere in the city. Our conversation took place in Swedish and Danish.

Frida on the stairs of Parliament House.

I have moved back to my childhood town Borgå and have an apartment with my boyfriend, who works in IT. I get up early and take the bus the 50 kilometres to Helsingfors, where I am at work until about 5:00 p.m. I spend the evenings at political meetings or preparing for them. My friends wonder about my busy life, but I enjoy it. Previously, my boyfriend was not very interested in politics, but now he shares my commitment.

Finland, like Denmark, has three political levels, and I am active on all of them for SFP. I am a member of Borgå's town council and also of the town’s smaller council, which is a kind of municipal "government". In addition, I sit on the regional council, was also a candidate for the parliamentary elections without being elected. - Maybe it will work next time.

Apart from politics, I am with friends and go out to eat with them. I'm also a long-distance runner, about 20 kilometres a week and now and then a half-marathon. It's a good way to think about something other than politics. When you run, it's just about moving forward.

Member of Swedish Youth

I grew up in Borgå and went to a Swedish-speaking primary school and high school there, was a model student and got good grades. In my childhood, I went to Russian-inspired classical ballet and had a dream of becoming a professional dancer. After matriculation, I studied social science at Åbo Akademi University with a focus on public administration and environmental issues. The University of Helsinki was too close to Borgå when I needed to free myself and create my own life, I thought. I lived in Turku for about four years and was happy about it.

During my studies, I became active in student politics. I had previously joined SFP’s youth organization, Swedish Youth, and during my studies became its chairman for three years. It is a nationwide organization with 3,000 members and ten employees, so I had to move to Helsingfors. I was a member of the party's board and participated in the government negotiations and in formulating the coalition government's program in 2019. Last September, I was contacted by Mikko Ollikainen, who is a member of Parliament for the SFP, who asked if I wanted to work for him, and I have I done so since then.

A liberal, humanist party

I was born in Finland and feel like a Finn, I was educated in Swedish and also feel part of the country's Swedish-speaking minority of around 5%. Most people speak both languages, in Ostrobothnia it has been common to only speak Swedish, but the state rewards bilingualism financially. It is a polarizing prejudice, which probably still lives in some places, that the Swedish speakers in Finland constitute an upper class. SFP naturally supports the Swedish-speaking minority, but also other minorities such as Sami and Ukrainian refugees.

SFP is a liberal, humanist party related to the Danish Social-Liberal Party and to the Liberals and the Centre Party in Sweden. When I was chairman of Swedish Youth, we collaborated a lot with Social-Liberal Youth of Denmark. I am grateful that my parents gave me a bilingual upbringing and I am fluent in writing and speaking both languages.

My grandmother, who died when I was sixteen years old, was a member of Parliament for the SFP and fought for equality for women. At fifteen, I wanted to create my own political identity and read party programs. I ended up joining the SFP because of the party's liberal economic policy as well as its views on climate change and human rights, but I was a rebel and more liberal than the parent party.

I believe that the Nordic countries could cooperate more and am in favour of open borders in Europe. Finland is now building fences along parts of the border with Russia, I see that as symbolic politics, the border can easily be crossed elsewhere by Russians who have money and want to harm Finland. - I am Finnish, Nordic and European with a liberal political stance and a hope to change the world for the better.

No clear plans

I do not have clear plans for the next five to ten years, but am open to opportunities outside the national political field as well. It is not always easy to be a young woman in politics, you need sponsors and the tone on social media can be harsh. I am 27 and have been told that people under thirty are not experienced enough, but I believe that politicians should represent the diversity of society. Only half of the young people vote in Finland. I try to distance myself from the criticism, which mostly comes from conservative older men, but it's hard. - In five to ten years, I hope to still live in Borgå with my boyfriend and to be active in local politics, if possible, I would also like to have children. 

Think about future generations

The development in Europe is going in the wrong direction now, people look out for their own best interests and find it difficult to understand each other. Polarisation, populism and climate change are threatening. The current government formation in Finland and the references to the strict Danish immigration policy are a frightening example of this. Politicians' horizons are limited to the election period of four years, in my election campaign I emphasized thinking long-term and about the generations that have not been born yet.

 I hope for a more liberal, open and humane world.

Frida gives a tour of Parliament House.

May 2023.

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