A land of opportunity for all
Finland is known as a country where everyone has the opportunity to participate, be educated and exert influence. We are among the world’s elite for instance in the fields of gender equality and social rights. These themes can be seen clearly in the centenary programme. How does the hundred-year-old Finland look from the viewpoint of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman?
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. By world standards, the Nordic welfare states have been successful in complying with this principle. In an assessment of gender equality, for example, Finland ranks second after Iceland (World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Index 2016).
The centenary programme contains numerous projects respecting gender equality, non-discrimination and tolerance. This important theme is dealt with in plays, exhibitions, seminars and competitions throughout the country – from the perspective of both history and the future. A particularly prominent role during spring is accorded to Minna Canth, a noteworthy social opinion leader and feminist.
Different, but on the same line
Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kirsi Pimiä’s mission is to promote equality and intervene in discrimination. Pimiä is satisfied with the advances in legislation made in recent years, but regrets the hardening of attitudes.
“Seen globally, the situation in Finland regarding non-discrimination is good. In recent years, the rights of many minority groups have improved, one example being the amended Marriage Act that allows same-sex marriage. On the other hand, the attitude climate has grown colder and extreme phenomena are emphasised. An attitude that one can say just about anything has become more common,” Kirsi Pimiä says regretfully.
According to Pimiä, discrimination still exists in Finland, and not everyone feels an equal citizen. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman receives the most complaints about discrimination relating to disability or ethnic origin.
“People with disability are still subject to a great deal of suspicions, and they are not perceived as a normal part of daily life in schools and in the workplace. In a way, it is assumed that people with disability are somewhere else and the government looks after them. My hope for the centenarian Finland and for Finns is that we all would accept one another as we are. We should encounter other people more openly and tolerantly – we are all individuals, and we all differ,” Kirsi Pimiä concludes.
Moments of gender equality and non-discrimination in the centenary programme
100 Acts for Gender Equality creates a thriving and sustainable Finland also for the next hundred years. In the context of the project, organisations, businesses, municipalities and other actors carry out new, practical measures to promote gender equality. The project has an extensive network of partners which includes, among others, YLE, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, the City of Helsinki, the Helsinki Police, the Network of Finnish Women Members of Parliament, the Women’s Network of Disability Organisations, 25 member organisations of the National Council of Women of Finland as well as the women’s associations of every political party represented in Parliament.
WOW – Women Of The World is a project that aims to increase a sense of community, develop new opportunities and create synergies in order to increase gender equality. Not only will WOW Finland bring gender equality into view; it will also produce concrete action promoting gender equality both domestically and abroad.
WOW – Women of the World Equality Festival is held at Tampere Hall on 11–12 March 2017. The festival celebrates the resilient Finnish woman’s story, with the gaze confidently fixed on the future. The event creates a space where the wish is to hear and understand all of the participants and to highlight interesting female artists as well as opinion leaders in various fields.
Utajärvi to hold the Gender Equality and Working Together Festival on 19 March. The day begins with a service at Utajärvi Church. The main celebration showcases the lives and work on behalf of their home district done by two women important in the locality: animal husbandry developer Eeva Korhonen and municipal council chair Maija Vuollo-Oilinki. The main speaker is Doctor of Political Science Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa.
Orivesi Gender Equality Forum will feature a wide-ranging discussion of gender equality led by experts. The series of debates focuses on the perspectives of nature and the environment, the elderly, young people and societal considerations. The events, open to everyone, are also a way of gearing up for the approaching municipal elections. Representatives of the municipal council groups and candidates standing for election to the council are invited to discuss issues of importance to the residents of the area.
A gender equality forum will be held on four Saturdays in February and March, each with a different theme. The theme of the first forum on 4 February was nature and the environment. The second forum on 25 February dealt with inclusion of the elderly and gender equality. The topic of discussion is young people and gender equality on 11 March, and societal considerations and gender equality on 25 March.
Minna Canth Lives, 100 Years of Work for Gender Equality celebrates the position of women and the development of gender equality in Finland to the top level on Minna Canth Day, 19 March. The event, to take place in Tampere, highlights the courageous deeds of women on behalf of people and society, and will also raise funds to support women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries. The Minna Canth of Pirkanmaa for 2017 will also be revealed during the event.
The core content of Minna’s Days, in Kuopio on 18 and 19 March will be gender equality, non-discrimination, tolerance, societal issues and art made by women. Minna’s Days is a politically independent town event that upholds Minna Canth’s legacy and celebrates it in a big way, sometimes in surprising places. Minna’s Days combines various arts, current societal issues as well as different people and fates.
The Miina Sillanpää 150th Anniversary Year Exhibition, One must want, believe, dare, opened in the Library of Parliament on 14 February, The exhibition takes visitors on a trip about Miina Sillanpää’s life through seven themes that define her life. Helping the underprivileged – civil rights, education, gender equality, social security – was the thread running through Miina’s life work. Literature relating to the topic has been collected for the exhibition and can be borrowed. The exhibition is open from 14 February to 15 March 2017 at the address Aurorankatu 6, Helsinki.
Eräjärven Työväen Näyttämö (Eräjärvi workers’ stage) is producing three plays about gender equality and Minna Canth in the project Development of Equality starting from Minna Canth. The script for a play about children’s experiences and view of fairness and gender equality is being put together at JunnuTupis, a place for primary school-aged children. Stories about equality and encounters are seen, heard and experienced in the play I am Minna Canth, scripted by Eräjärven Tupateatteri theatre’s own MC120 working group. The play also utilises texts and views about various aspects of gender equality expressed by students at Orivesi College of Art. Rönni Kesäteatteri summer theatre will perform Kauppa-Lopo, written by Canth, as a musical. The plays are presented in the spring and summer of 2017.
The seminar series Gender Equality – A Common Policy to Support Everyone’s Wellbeing offers perspectives that diversify and reduce tensions for the discussion on gender. The seminars are organised under six headings: Boys and girls – education and training; New types of guidelines for the prevention of intimate partner violence; The distribution of post-divorce parenting responsibilities; Wage equality; Health care; and Gender equality in national defence. The seminar dates range from 1 April to 15 November 2017.
The Everyone Films Competition 2017 is a film competition targeted at children and young people, with gender equality as the main theme. In addition to the five main series (fiction, documentary, animation, music video, hobby video), the competition has a special series, Mitä välii? (Who cares?), calling for films dealing with disability and equality. The competition will culminate in the Everyone Films Gala in May, and the winning films will be screened in cinemas in several locations around Finland. President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö is the patron of the competition, which runs from 1 February to 31 March 2017.
I’ll Tread As Long As… – songs about tenacity and going together celebrate the entry into force of the Marriage Act allowing same-sex marriage. Townswomen, Finland’s only lesbian choir, is producing a programme that tips the hat to doing together, participation and opposition to discrimination. The Finnish identity is multi-coloured, also with rainbow colours, and through its own actions the choir wants to make heard the minority’s own voice and experience.
Finland 100 – In Rainbow Colors raises awareness on the history and present day of sexual and gender minorities (LGBTIQ). This culture, art and communications project also collects new information on the life of minorities. The project strives to reach new audiences and to participate in building an equal and diverse Finland where everyone’s history and experiences are equally valuable.