Women in municipal politics in Luxembourg What motivates female officeholders in local politics in Luxembourg? Five female politicians

give their own personal perspective on what it means to be a woman involved in local politics in Luxembourg. Only 24.8% of all officeholders at municipal level are women – a figure that our interviewees all agree is far too low. No matter what office they hold or what political ideals they stand for, they all share the same commitment to improving the lives of their constituents. And they would all like to see women adequately represented in politically influential positions.

Natalie Silva, mayor of Larochette

What drove you to get involved in local politics? What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

Natalie Silva: I got involved in politics relatively early. When I was still living in Ettelbruck, I was asked if I could ever imagine joining a local advisory committee. 'Absolutely!' was my answer. The municipality I had lived in since birth had supported me so much, and this was the least I could do to give something back. What has motivated me ever since is that, in municipal politics, you always stay close to the residents. When you're out and about, you meet people, get to talk to them and can discuss their ideas for improving the local community.

Why is it important for women especially to get involved in politics? How can they contribute to changing the political culture?

Natalie Silva: It's about equal representation, really. Women make up half of society, so it stands to reason that they should also make up half of all officeholders. But many women don't believe they can step up. The stereotype of politics as a male-dominated domain is still very much alive, even though it does not reflect the reality. That's why I would advise women to simply run for office. If they are elected, they get the opportunity to implement their priorities in meaningful projects. And if they don't get elected, they should stick at it and still participate in associations and committees, or anywhere else they can contribute with their ideas.

What advice would you give to a woman who is thinking about getting into local politics?

Natalie Silva: Being organised is the most important thing. There are only 24 hours in a day, and you have to divide this time between activities and projects, your partner and your children, and also some time for yourself. You don't need to attend every event, and you don't have to be the last one to go home. You also need a supportive partner and a good team behind you. For example, after I was elected to the board of aldermen in 2011, we changed the times of various meetings so I could still fulfil my duties as a mother.


Natalie Silva is the daughter of Cape Verdean parents and the mother of one son. She has been the mayor of the municipality of Larochette in central Luxembourg since 2017. Larochette is known not only for its idyllic location, but also for having one of the highest percentages of foreigners in the country. Though most residents are of Portuguese origin, more than 30 different nationalities live here. 

Monique Smit-Thijs, mayor of Bertrange

What drove you to get involved in local politics? What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

Monique Smit-Thijs: When my family and I moved to Luxembourg, we were eager to participate in village life in Bertrange. It therefore gave me great pleasure to get involved with various local associations very early on, despite not being from Luxembourg. Through these commitments, I eventually had the opportunity to run for office with a political party in the municipal elections.

Recognition for your efforts comes in various forms. I am actively involved in plans to improve the local area and municipality, and I also play a part in implementing them. Moreover, as both a citizen and the mayor, I see myself as part of a dynamic local community.

Why is it important for women especially to get involved in politics? How can they contribute to changing the political culture?

Monique Smit-Thijs: Life experience, ideas, opinions and efforts of representatives from a broad spectrum of the population are the lifeblood of politics. What's more, if a team has a diverse composition, it is more efficient and effective and issues that are important to women receive greater political attention.

What changes have you observed over the years as a result of women being involved in politics?

Monique Smit-Thijs: The increasing involvement of women in politics shows that it is possible and desirable that they take on more political responsibility. This is the result of a profound change in the role of women in our society. Today, if a woman is dedicated and participates in political decision-making processes, there are many doors open to her.

© Commune de Bertrange

Monique Smit-Thijs has been the mayor of Bertrange, a bustling municipality west of the capital, for almost a year now. Born in the Netherlands, she arrived in Luxembourg in 1984 and quickly made connections through her involvement in various associations. Her daughters attended state school, a conscious decision to help them integrate, she tells us. 

Mandy Ragni, municipal councillor in Esch-Alzette

What drove you to get involved in local politics? What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

Mandy Ragni: Through my work, I got involved early on in social causes related to families, children, young and older people. My political mandate is another step towards achieving my personal goals and allows me to get involved at a different level. Our children's future is a matter particularly close to my heart, but I also want to dispel the notion that politicians are unapproachable. Listening to the needs of all citizens and, above all, focusing on the human aspect of politics are among my priorities in this regard. 

Why is it important for women especially to get involved in politics? How can they contribute to changing the political culture?

Mandy Ragni: In the past, women's perspectives on different issues have all too often been marginalised. Urban planning is just one example: cities were designed by men for men, which is evident in the way that public spaces are structured – be it the lack of lighting in public places, or the public transport system, which is built in a way that can make women feel uneasy when travelling alone.

A society can only be considered healthy and democratic if women are adequately represented in it. Feminism is about building a fair society for everyone, not just women. At the same time, women need to recognise that this can't be achieved without their involvement. A number of female pioneers have paved the way in recent decades. This commitment will continue to be needed in future for the benefit of our entire community, including men.

How does society benefit from greater diversity in politics?

Mandy Ragni: Politics should reflect the diversity of a society – sadly, we are still a long way off achieving this in Luxembourg.

We are about to face a series of extreme challenges that will require all our efforts. Climate change is just one example that concerns us all. The solutions so far have not been enough to overcome these challenges – we can only achieve this through consensus. And this consensus is only possible if all parts of our society are involved. If we fail to achieve this, I foresee difficult times looming in the distance.


© déi gréng

In her first municipal elections back in 2017, Mandy Ragni was elected to the board of aldermen of Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg's second-largest city) as a member of the Green Party. Her main focus is on youth work, an area she is especially familiar with due to her job as a childcare worker. Because she supervises an integration class for preschool and nursery school children and also looks after children with special needs, she has a first-hand understanding of the realities of teaching staff, a knowledge that she puts to good use in order to defend their interests. The mother of two daughters is also the chairwoman of Multiple Sklerose Lëtzebuerg NGO.

Bettina Ballmann, municipal councillor in Roeser

What drove you to get involved in local politics? What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

Bettina Ballmann: I've always enjoyed getting involved, contributing my ideas and making things happen. When you actively participate in local affairs, there is no shortage of opportunities to improve things or address problems. If you want to change things for the better, you can't just sit back and wait for others to act first. You need to apply your knowledge and ideas to areas where you think you can make a difference.

When moving around the municipality, it gives me great joy to see how the projects I initiated have been brought to life and how citizens are using and participating in them. Of course, positive feedback from citizens also serves to validate your efforts. It is moments like these that motivate you to keep going and confirm that you're indeed on the right track.

Why is it important for women especially to get involved in politics? How can they contribute to changing the political culture?

Bettina Ballmann: Our society is made up of an equal proportion of men and women. So I think it is only natural that men and women from diverse areas of politics should be involved in developing specific ideas. These days, women are pursuing careers in all kinds of fields, so why shouldn't they be interested and get involved in politics as well?

Many women have already proved they are more than capable of making a difference for their local community or their country. This should encourage more women to run for office and dispel any doubts among those who haven't fully believed they can do it. In my own career in local politics, I have always felt taken seriously. Having a healthy mix of participants should be a natural in any group in which decisions are made.

What are the main issues concerning women in politics?

Bettina Ballmann: Today, people's interests are often shaped by their professional or academic background, but they can also be influenced by situations in their own day-to-day life. So, I don't think that interests are necessarily gender-specific, since we essentially all share the same goal: to improve our quality of life. This calls for the viewpoints and knowledge of everyone. For me personally, as a mother and a teacher, educational policy and the well-being of children and young people are matters particularly close to my heart.

© LSAP Réiser

Bettina Ballmann has been a member of the municipal council of Roeser since 2019 and is the president of the Culture and Sports Committee. In addition, she is the spokesperson for the parliamentary group of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP). As her main profession, the married mother of two is a primary school teacher, and she is also involved in the local youth centre.

Ana Correia da Veiga, municipal councillor in the city of Luxembourg

What drove you to get involved in local politics? What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

Ana Correia da Veiga: In my youth, I joined the fight against all forms of discrimination as a 'peer trainer'. Discrimination often follows the same modus operandi, namely the presumed superiority of one group over another. During my training as a childcare worker, I fell in love with inspirational authors like Maya Angelou, Paulo Freire and Pierre Bourdieu, who denounced habits and behaviours that increase inequality. When I then realised that this vicious circle is exacerbated by political decisions, I decided to get involved in politics.

Understanding how a city like Luxembourg City is managed has opened my eyes to how privileged individuals defend their privileges.

In my role as a municipal councillor, I see myself as a mediator between cultural differences and between divergent world views. And with my professional experience, I can also bridge the gap between political decision-making and the real world.

Why is it important for women especially to get involved in politics? How can they contribute to changing the political culture?

Ana Correia da Veiga: The municipal councils and the Chamber of Deputies must be representative of our society, in which women make up half of the population. For many years, we were denied the right to vote and the right of self-determination. We must now make up for this lost time, if necessary with legally established quotas, including for the non-binary community.

Women experience their own realities in everyday life, and these realities must be recognised and taken into account in decision-making bodies. For example: Even a person living in poverty has their own reality and, like anyone else, can demand to be treated with dignity. But how can someone work 40 hours a week and still be poor? And can people's needs be met through pay alone?

What challenges does local politics still face in terms of equal opportunities for all?

Ana Correia da Veiga: We must start at a young age, so that children from all socio-cultural backgrounds can one day get involved in politics, including refugee children and children with special needs. Furthermore, to ensure equal opportunities for all children, we as a society must fundamentally rethink the practice of differentiating between schools in different neighbourhoods on the basis of social indicators.

We also advocate a 'design4all' approach, a planned and consistent approach by the administration of Luxembourg City to address inequalities. This includes measures such as awareness-raising and training for teaching staff, encouraging the involvement of young people in decision-making processes, gender budgeting, and using intercultural mediators, to name just a few ideas.


Ana Correia da Veiga is a civil servant at the National Youth Service (SNJ). Her academic background and Cape Verdean roots have led her to support the fight against discrimination, but she is also passionate about issues related to senior citizens, coexistence and water management. She has been a member of déi Lénk since 2013 and has represented the party in the municipal council of Luxembourg City since 2020. She also serves on the executive board of the European Left party.