Oslo is home to some of the most interesting people in Norway. TheOsloBook has launched a new series in the personalities section called, “A Day in the Life”, which will give you a glimpse into the lives of influential leaders in Oslo.
Meet Oslo’s youngest Deputy Mayor ever, Khamshajiny Gunaratnam, 28. Almost all know her by Kamzy, even the Mayor and her own mother use the nickname. Even after nearly a year and a half in the position, she still sometimes thinks: “Oh my God, I’m the deputy mayor!” Kamzy was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Norway at three years old. During her teen years growing up in Oslo, she became involved in politics, which have been an integral part of her life since. As of 2007, she has represented the Labour Party in Oslo City Council where she is committed to political issues that contribute to more democracy, community involvement, and transparency. Kamzy can be characterized as a social media guru politician inspiring youth to take part in politics. We sat down with Kamzy to learn what she does everyday beyond the posts, tweets, and snaps.
A Day in the Life of Kamzy, the Deputy Mayor of Oslo:
5:30 Kamzy pops out of bed and leaves for the gym. No breakfast for her, if she consumes anything in the morning it’s café au lait.
6:00 During her 1.5 hours at the gym, Kamzy strength trains or runs on the treadmill, her personal favourite. She says she works out because it makes her feel good and healthy. She admits it’s been challenging taking care of herself while focusing on such a demanding job.
8:30 Kamzy arrives at Oslo City Hall, typically wearing a colourful dress. She’s passionate about self expression through clothing, even in the workplace: “I think people should wear whatever they want to wear. I don’t believe that you have to look a certain way.” When Kamzy had just started working at the city hall, she received comments from some of her fellow colleagues that her v-neck dress was too low cut or a dress was too short, but Kamzy’s reaction was: “I don’t think anyone should put limitations to anyone else.” Her working morning starts at her office: she prepares for the day and begins reading through her email inbox.
9:00 Everyday, promptly at 9:00, Kamzy meets with the 5 politicians and 3 advisors on the Labour Party city council for a 30 minute status meeting. Even though she’s the deputy mayor, she also represents the party, which is why she attends.
9:30 After the status meeting, she’s off to various parts of the city. She admits, “I hate just being at City Hall”, she prefers interacting with Oslo residents. Kamzy typically visits senior centres throughout the city, which is something she really loves doing. “I’m a member of the Welfare Committee and the Elderly Care. Developing the elderly care is one of our biggest topics in the health field for the Labour Party.” Kamzy also gives workshops on democracy at Oslo middle schools. She asks fourteen / fifteen-year-olds to define freedom of speech and what it means to them. “I just love people telling me their opinions”, she says. “Some of them are incredibly ambitious, some are not – especially the girls from the immigrant families”, she continues. She says it is very important for her to help those girls to believe in themselves.
Kamzy: “Today there are many people who feel that their voice is not heard or that it is no use to speak out. “Openness” is very important, but we must also ensure that everyone can be part of an open democracy.” Do you need to be heard? Do you have a question for Kamzy? Here is her card and you can contact her on any communication medium that you like most.
12:00-afternoon By lunchtime Kamzy is typically back at Oslo City Hall, answering her endless inbox of emails. She has no time to eat a proper lunch. She usually makes sandwiches in the office kitchen and eats them while responding to emails. She is extremely popular among teenagers and very active in social media, and receives tons of messages from her fans. They ask for advice or just thank her for actively representing them in government. Often afternoons are filled with meetings, which can sometimes be very intense. Between meetings, typically 3 to 4 times a week, she brings youth into her office to help her recharge and energise. Kamzy says, “They get here and I just ask them: What do you think of Oslo? How is your school? What am I doing wrong? Anything. It’s just a lot of perspectives.” A particular conversation a few months ago stands out: a 16-year-old girl interviewed Kamzy for a class project. She found it interesting that the girl didn’t ask about her immigrant background, like the national and international media typically do. When questioned why, the girl explained that colour does not mean anything special, and to her Kamzy is a citizen of the world and the Deputy Mayor. “It’s not just her, a lot of kids feel the same way. So there is already a change going on and I’m so glad that I heard it the first time, and I just confirmed it more, so I say that in my speeches.”
Evening In the evenings, Kamzy attends events throughout the city or sometimes gets hot chocolate at Hotel Bristol. According to her, their hot chocolate is the reason she’s able to survive the frigid Oslo winters.
21:00 Home at last! After removing her makeup and showering, Kamzy turns on Netflix. Right now, she’s catching up on Gilmore Girls because she never watched it when it was popular. She’s excited for the encore season called “A Year in the Life” which recently premiered. Then it’s off to bed.
Kamzy is very proud of her job: “I am passionate about ensuring genuine freedom of speech for all people. My role as Deputy Mayor is to be an ombudsman on behalf of the elected representatives in the city of Oslo.”
If you wish to learn more about Kamzy’s daily life, follow her on her social media outlets: Facebook and Twitter.
Interview: Lauren Guido / Photos/Video: Dina Johnsen