Last year, Adéla Šípová (representing the Pirate Party) became the youngest senator for the Kladno district. In the elections, she defeated the likes of Petr Bendl, replacing Jiří Dienstbier Jr., who had been a senator for Kladno since 2011, in the upper chamber of the Parliament. A huge success for a young woman. She was even rumoured to be a possible presidential candidate. In an interview for LP-Life.com, we talked with the senator, lawyer and mother of five (!) children not only about politics...
You made it to the Senate, where you are the youngest member. But your name also appeared on the list of presidential candidates. Why did you decide to run?
It's not like I announced my candidacy. It wasn't my idea at all, it was more in fun. I am a strong supporter of more women making their way into politics. My huge role model and great inspiration for my work is Zuzana Čaputová. Just yesterday I heard one of her speeches, and as always, I was really moved. When I compare it to our situation here, it makes me want to cry. At the same time, however, it gives me hope, because if our Slovak neighbours came this far, why shouldn't we be able to have such a president too one day?
I'd never really considered it, but they approached me, saying that I was a senator, that it was one of the good choices for president. So I made a kind of statement on the matter, but I didn't announce my candidacy.
It is important to have a good team to lean on, because it's not a one-man show, but teamwork. It all depends on whether such a team can be formed. I can say with all honestly that I am very happy as a senator, and I won't comment on this.
Each time I do an interview with a politician, I always ask why there are so few women in politics. They typically say it is an inhospitable environment even for men, let alone women. How do you perceive it? Since you said you were happy in the Senate...
I'm happy because my desire to comment on important matters, being able to speak up and contribute to the discussion in some way came to fruition. As a mother or an ordinary lawyer, I'd never had such an opportunity. But I've always been interested in social and political matters, now I have the opportunity to influence at least a fraction of it. That's why I'm happy. Even now, I am very grateful that people voted me in, I still feel the immense trust the voters from my constituency have in me. I'm still excited about that.
Why women? I think female politicians get more dirt thrown on them than male ones. This can be a big obstacle, and I experience it daily when - take a look at the comments under my completely ordinary social media posts. Male politicians don't get as much of that. It's hard because there's another layer - how my children perceive it.
They have them too, but for some reason, they have the impression that women are somehow fragile. Of course, men can be fragile, too, but the concern for me from the side of my family is probably greater. I'm pretty tough, I've learned to live with it, but that's what discourages a lot of other women. I'm honestly not surprised. And then there's the fact that it's hard. Women are still expected to be in charge of the whole family care and do everything that needs to be done in the household, and it's difficult to combine all that with politics. The father of my children is so responsible that I can count on him to take on most of these things.
You look very young. Is your appearance a problem too? For example, in contrast to those, how to put it, very serious and "macho" men?
It is true that when I joined the Senate, the first days were a shock to my colleagues, especially the senior senators. They were wondering whether it was an assistant or a senator who'd just walked into the room. The invitations for a coffee started pouring in almost instantly. Of course, I had to refuse, it surprised me. Sometimes, I still have trouble getting into the building!
Yes, some of the guards watching over the parking lot. To make things worse, I have an ancient, 22-year-old car. When I drive onto the parking lot, they ask me to turn around, saying I must be in the wrong place. I tell them that I'm on my way to work, that I'm a senator. It still happens every now and then, but the gentlemen did start to be more mindful. They always politely apologize to me, explaining it is still difficult for them to tell that I am a senator. I always arrive waving my card for them to see, so as to avoid embarrassing situations. I find it kind of endearing. However, in contact with my colleagues in politics, it sometimes isn't easy at all, but I think they have become accustomed to me expressing my opinions, even though they sometimes let me know afterwards that, unlike them, I have no political experience. But it doesn't discourage me in any way, I keep expressing myself. I think they're getting used to it to some extent.
Yes. I am on the Committee on Social Policy, so these are important topics for me, and they always have been. I think that growing poverty and the widening of the scissors are, in the end, a threat to society as a whole. I don't want anyone to be left behind in our relatively rich country. I also concern myself with equality a lot. Being a lawyer, human rights are important to me, so I focus a lot on these topics. As well as on equality between men and women. Although the law guarantees it, the reality is different, we have lower wages and, paradoxically, the differences between women and men are greater in higher circles. Women really have more trouble with climbing the ladder than men. Those who make it to the top are very strong personalities, while men manage relatively easily.
I am also invested in social issues, the issue of human rights and the environment. Especially when it comes to the environment, and particularly with older politicians, I often encounter a lack of regard for the younger generation's fear of what our planet will look like in a few decades. Personally, I find it a little disheartening. I don't think politicians are able to reach the younger generation, which is a fact that emerges from surveys. This may be one of the reasons why, and it bothers me a lot.
Not everywhere, but in Kladno, for example, I think there is enough space for them. Kladno is my district, so that's what I comment on. I ride a bike around Prague, too, and it's much more difficult than in Kladno. There are cycle lanes in Prague, in much narrower spaces. Kladno has large wide roads from the times of the industrial past, when a lot of cars and buses drove there. That's not really the case now, but the lanes are still wide. In my opinion, cycle lanes would easily fit in, but we still don't have any. I am very sorry about that, because my dream is for our children to go to school by bike, the way they do in many Western countries, where it is quite common. That's not the case here, I would be afraid to send my children anywhere by bike.
But that's another problem. Our children are getting fat, they don't get enough movement, and making it possible for children to ride a bike to school would make a lot of things come together.
I think that we politicians could learn to communicate better in some countries. Stop attacking each other so much, learn that one doesn't always need to have the upper hand at all costs. "The more vulgar I am, the better a politician it makes me," is an approach I don't like at all, it doesn't appeal to me. I'm not saying that this is the case everywhere, but especially in the Western EU countries, such as Germany, politicians, can communicate better. What else we could learn from them... definitely more respect for the environment.
It is my nature to dive into certain things headfirst. That applies to both my children and politics. The impulse was quite spontaneous, no great thinking involved. I can honestly say that I've never regretted my spontaneous decisions.
I can't say any of them was planned. It may not seem so, but five children don't just cost you a lot of energy, they also give a huge amount of energy back. Yesterday, I was with my two daughters at Náplavka for the release of Ivan Bartoš's book, and I was infinitely happy that they were helping me recharge the energy I expended. My children allow me to see things from a human viewpoint.
Children are freer than we are, they call it like they see it. Does it ever happen that your children ask something or say something silly, and you realize it's actually quite inspiring?
My eldest daughter is nineteen, my second oldest is eighteen. They mainly give me an insight into what young people are interested in nowadays. They give me feedback on why something doesn't appeal to them or what they find annoying about politicians. Every day, I hear something like that from them.
The older generation is also more afraid of the current situation in Afghanistan, of migration. It's this fear that you, as a politician, will probably have to fight against.
I understand their fear, people tend to be afraid of what they don't know. And politicians, as well as the media, are responsible for it. Very often, they burn through these quick topics, attempting to make political points, but that's a road to Hell. I think that the important thing is education. Personally, I'm not afraid of it, although it must be complicated when each partner a couple comes from a different cultural background. But that can happen even within the Czech Republic. Of course, if the two nationalities are very different, it will cause more issues. I have experience with that from family, a distant cousin of mine married a woman from India. We went to India for the wedding and it enriched me immensely. Of course, not everyone can afford to travel abroad, but it is necessary to gain education at school and get to know other cultures. I think that we don't even know a substantial part of our Czech, or Czechoslovak culture, we don't know our own minorities, and we are actually a little scared of them too.
Honestly, we don't even know those all that well. This week I'm going to visit the Museum of Romani Culture and meet with the director, I'm really looking forward to it. I don't know about you, but I'm not really familiar with Romani cuisine, and I find it a pity. I'm looking forward to finding out more. These are things we know nothing about.
You mentioned that your husband took on a lot of duties at home. Am I to understand that he has allowed you to pursue your career while he takes care of the children at home?
It's not like that. The way it works, he's definitely the one who deals with school-related stuff more. Today, for example, he took the kids for vaccination, our third and fourth can finally get their jabs. This time, he wanted to take care of it, because I have a job to do, it used to be my responsibility. He also does a lot of housework.
I haven't completely left. I've always done pro bono activities and I've managed to keep that up. When someone turns to me, I represent them, I don't want to get totally out of the loop. But I only have a restricted amount of time for it. I'm not sorry about that, because I haven't gotten out of touch with the law.
But it is an area where one must always keep educating themselves. I would be worried that if I don't do it full time, I'll miss something essential.
In large law firms, the current practice is that you start as an associate who hops between courtrooms. Later, as lawyers get older, they spend more time in the office and usually pay more attention to management. I don't have to do that, because I'm an independent lawyer, so no management for me. But it's relatively common practice with lawyers. They usually end up behind the desk.
How do you think this year's elections will turn out? What would you personally like to work your way up to in politics, what is your goal in the Senate?
I have no idea how the elections will turn out. It's a question I deal with every day. I'll consider it a success if a maximum of democratically-minded politicians who are independent rather than being linked to oligarchic groups and who act in the interests of the citizens make it to the Chamber of Deputies. That's what I consider most important, because it has a huge impact on a person's work in the Senate. I can clearly see who is under the influence of lobbyists and who isn't.
I don't know what my future political career will look like. And I don't feel like need to concern myself with it now. After that year, I'm still amazed at what I did. I try to do my job as best I can and I don't need to deal with what will happen in a few years. That's how I have it in life. I float like water and where it takes me, I will be there. I am satisfied now, we will see in the future.
After a year, I'm still amazed at what I've achieved. I try to do my job as best I can and I don't need to think about with what will happen in a few years. That's how I live my life. I run free like water and where the flow takes me, there I'll be. I am satisfied now, we'll see about the future.