Slovakia Welcomes Its First Female President — And She’s an Environmental Activist

by Taye Paul Olubayo

Slovakia’s first female president, Zuzana Čaputová, a lawyer and environmental activist, was sworn in on Saturday, vowing to fight impunity and restore justice in a country largely affected by large-scale political corruption.

“I offer my expertise, emotion and activism. I offer my mind, my heart and my hands,” she said at her swearing-in ceremony.

“I want to be the voice of those who are not heard.”

Čaputová, a lawyer and political newcomer, is now the youngest person to serve as president of Slovakia. She is sometimes called the “Erin Brokovich of Slovakia” for her decade-long struggle to close a toxic landfill in her hometown, which she succeeded in doing, earning her the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize.

In a conservative Roman Catholic Country, Čaputová, a divorced mother of two, supports both LGBTQ rights and access to reproductive health care.

“Under the constitution, people are free and equal in dignity and in rights, meaning nobody is that irrelevant to have their rights compromised, nor is anyone that powerful to stand above the law,” she said in her inauguration speech.

Even though the presidential role in Slovakia is mostly ceremonial — the prime minister oversees most of the country’s affairs — Čaputová has blocking powers, is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and can appoint top judges.

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