Farah Rumy: First Sri Lankan Woman to be Elected to a Swiss Cantonal Parliament

Lankan-born Farah Rumy is all set to take her place in the Solothurn Parliament. Having attended Bishop’s College, Colombo, until she was 6 years old, Farah is the first Sri Lankan woman to be elected to a Swiss Cantonal Parliament.

Pulse got in touch with the newly-elected parliamentarian to pick her brains about how she made the transition from her career in healthcare to a successful one in politics.

Here’s what she had to say!

What was growing up in Sri Lanka like?

It was a wonderful time, being happy for no one reason and for everything. Happy times come and go, but my childhood memories are the sweetest memories. I moved to Switzerland with my parents when I was six years old, so I cannot recall all my past memories. But all in all, I would say I had a wonderful childhood.

What do you miss most about Sri Lanka?

One of the more painful aspects of leaving home is that your family stays behind. They will always love you, but you’re no longer a day-to-day part of their life. I miss my family, the warm temperature, the great food, the beaches, the friendly and courteous people of Sri Lanka who make this country so special.

What was the process of migration like for you? Did you have problems fitting in?

As a young girl, you don’t have to deal with issues such as work, social expectations, adaptability, etc. I had to find my way around a completely new language in the new school. It was particularly difficult when I was introduced to the class and I couldn’t understand either the teacher or the students. Finding new friends was also difficult during the first year, although everything normalised after a year, because as a kid I was quick to grasp the German language.

Tell us about your career in healthcare. How did you transition into politics?

After completing my obligatory schooling, I qualified as a Nurse (B.Sc) and worked as an Expert Nurse in general and visceral surgery. I chose that profession because I always wanted to be close to people, as that is where life, conversations and real work can be experienced and felt. After completing my Master of Advanced Studies in Healthcare Management, I switched to invasive cardiology.

I have always been interested in politics, not party politics, but issues that affect our daily lives, because political decisions affect us every day. From the prices in the shopping mall to our pension scheme. After completing my education, I had a great desire to do more for the people and initiated several projects on my own before becoming politically active. 

After being sworn in as a Member of Parliament and Member of the Justice Commission, I have now been in office for 2 months and find the experience very valuable. I purposely stood not only for the parliamentary elections, but also for the local elections, since these are the issues that are happening at our doorstep, issues that concern everyone on a daily basis. I was then elected to the Citizens Council and as a Substitute Municipal Councillor.

When you were younger, did you ever see yourself as a member of parliament?

Honestly, no. Since I was a small child, I have always helped and cared for people, which is why I started my professional career as a nurse and would always learn this profession again. With a strong desire to do more for society and to build and strengthen our future together, I started my political career after my further education.

How does it feel to be elected as a Member of Parliament in the Canton of Solothurn in Switzerland?

It is an honour and a privilege to hold this respectful post with 99 other parliamentarians. It is a great vote of confidence from the society and I would like to fulfil my intention and promise in the coming legislature. I see myself not only as a representative of the younger generation and women, but also of migrants, especially South Asians, healthcare workers and every other minority group. Above all, I am happy to see many Sri Lankans celebrating and honouring my success with me.

Did you face any challenges after becoming an MP?

I notice that as a young politician, I have to assert myself and prove myself more in some cases. The experienced politicians have an added advantage. To be taken seriously, you have to be well versed in the issues confronting the canton and the nation as a whole. 

I would describe the challenge as the actual parliamentary work. Elections alone are not the end of the road, because the people now want you to deliver on your manifest. Parliamentary work is not a one-man/woman-show, it needs everyone pursuing more or less the same goal. Even if my philosophy and world views are different from those of the right-wing party, for example, we still want the best for our country, even if we pursue our goals in different ways.

What advice would you give your younger self in terms of career?

I would give my younger self a lot of advice if I could, because you do get a bit wiser as you get older. In terms of career, I would tell my younger self to take time for herself and think carefully about which path she wants to take. It is very important to be surrounded by people who want to see you win. It is important to always believe in yourself but also know who you can trust. Choosing your career is not about making others happy or fulfilling someone else’s expectations – it’s about fulfilling yourself. You have to be able to get up every day and love what you do, only that guarantees a happy and successful life.

Your election opens a new chapter for women of colour and Asian heritage. What advice would you give to these women in pursuing their ambitions?

Women represent 50% of the world’s population, so we are also entitled to have 50% of all political and leadership positions. It is time we became aware of this. Everyone has this voice inside them about what they want to do in this world, I urge everyone to listen to that voice and always be 100% sure and authentic in their decisions.

Ambitions come with hard work, you have to be ready to start early and finish late and have no days off. You have to take each step thoughtfully and know exactly what that job or profession requires and lay the path to the goal yourself, so that when you reach the aim, you have done it yourself, and no one can tell you that you didn’t deserve it.



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