Ingrida Simonyte broke the 30-year spell of male PM’s in Lithuania when she was appointed to the role in 2020
To run a country is a job and gender is irrelevant, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on Friday.
“What I say to myself is that this is my job. This is not my gender, and that’s irrelevant,” she said.
Simonyte, who is the second woman to hold the top job in Lithuania, added that the only thing that matters is whether she is doing a good job or not.
“If you do not make it [gender] a problem for yourself, then it’s not a problem,” she said.
Sworn in as prime pinister in December 2020, Simonyte broke the 30-year spell of male PM’s in Lithuania. She represents the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) party. The 46-year-old former finance minister is also a trained economist.
She is in Dubai to mark the national day of Lithuania at Expo 2020 on Friday. During her two-day visit to the UAE, she will hold bilateral meetings with His Highness Shiekh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister of Presidential Affairs.
Speaking about the challenges women face, Simonyte said: “Society in general is much more critical towards women than men, and even women are more critical towards women than men. That is ironic.”
She said that challenges exist for women to fully use their potential, whether cultural or practical such as balancing work and family responsibilities. “What countries should do and strive for is to acknowledge this, and try to sort out this problem.”
She said that when she became prime minister, she tried to ensure that there was gender balance in her government.
“I have 50 per cent of women in the government…and I did it on purpose, because I wanted to have a balanced government. Not only in politics, but women in business and academics, it’s the same,” she said, adding that the responsibilities of raising a family should not be pinned on women exclusively.
Drawing from her own experience of fighting through a male-dominated political culture in Lithuania, Simonyte said that she could do it because she had understanding parents.
“They said that if you want to try something, try it. I was not forbidden or directed toward something I did not want. So, that’s how I learned that if I can do it, I will try it.”
She added: “One thing that we absolutely need to say to kids, is that there is nothing impossible for any one of them. There is nothing that is purely male or female, because it depends on how much you want to do something.”
Simonyte said that she is happy that Expo 2020 has dedicated an entire pavilion for women. She added that she is impressed by the UAE’s achievements in gender equality, and the crucial role that women play in the country’s politics and governance. “I must say I admire the strength of your women and the miracles that they do in this country.”
The Prime Minister said that she was “stunned” by how magnificent the world fair is. “Five or six years ago, that was a desert, and you become even more stunned because of the amount of infrastructure that has been built for this event, and the creativity of those who are participating… It’s the highest standard you can imagine,” she said.
Simonyte said that her country is looking to explore opportunities to build connections and address global challenges.
>> Lithuania aims to boost multiple sectors at Dubai Expo 2020
“You are supposed to be where everybody is. And if everybody is somewhere, then you are supposed to be there. It is always better to be than not to be.”
The Lithuanian leader said the transition to renewable energy and digital technology are two focuses for her country. “There is a very significant potential for cooperation when it comes to solar energy. There are things we want to learn from the UAE.”
She also said some of the strongest areas of her country’s economy are the food industry and fintech, and that she would like to extend partnerships with the UAE and other countries in these sectors.