Photo credit: Government of Finland - Photo: 2017

Finland Launches Landmark Gender Equality Prize

By Rita Joshi

NEW YORK (IDN) – In run-up to the sixty-first session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, CSW61, in New York from March 13 to 24, the government of Finland has launched the International Gender Equality Prize, which will be awarded for the first time later this year.

The prize, intended to promote gender equality worldwide, to support discussion on equality between women and men and to celebrate Finland’s 100 years of independence, was launchded by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in Tampere on southern Finland on March 8, the International Women’s Day.

“We really have been a world-class trailblazer in gender equality. The fact that Finland granted full political rights to women in 1906, even before becoming an independent nation, is truly amazing. It sowed the seeds of economic and social developments that have since brought us the benefits we are now reaping in this country,” Prime Minister Sipilä said at an event in Tampere, Finland’s most populous inland city in any of the Nordic countries.

“Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Finnish society. But it is also a cornerstone of global development. There are too many girls in this world who even to this day cannot attend school. There are too many women whose word is not heard in their society. There are too many women who are denied the right to decide what they want to do in life and with their bodies,” Sipilä added.

Keeping this in view, a broad-based Finnish delegation, led by Pirkko Mattila, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, will attend CSW61. Its priority theme is women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

According to the ministry, in 2015, only half of the women in the world participated in working life. It is therefore considered important to create and strengthen structures which reduce discrimination and make the reconciliation of work and family life easier. In fact, women’s participation in working life is crucial to an effective implementation of Agenda 2030, the sustainable development goals set by the UN.

The Finnish delegation consists of members of the Finnish Parliament, a representative of the Sámi Parliament and representatives of ministries and civic organisations.

The Sami Parliament of Finland is the representative body for people of Sami heritage in Finland. The parliament consists of 21 elected mandates. The current president is Tiina Sanila-Aikio, the first vice-president is Heikki Paltto, and the second vice president is Ulla-Maarit Magga.

“Women’s economic independence can be strengthened by many different measures. Public services and social security are indispensable preconditions for women’s full participation in working life and education. Just as important is opportunity for family planning”, said Mattila.

The ministry emphasizes that men and women are equally represented in the labour market and the employment rate of women is high. Support is provided to families for the coordination of work and family life. Parenthood is for both mothers and fathers, and good conditions are ensured for children through an extensive child and maternity clinic system, right to day-care, school health care and school meals.

Questions relating to work life and equality are agreed with the state, employers and employees and the agreements are also adhered to. Gender equality is a core value in Finland.

The Act on Equality between Women and Men was legislated as early as in 1968. The Act forbids discrimination based on sex or sexual identity and promotes equality.

Though in 1906 Finnish women became the first in the world to receive full political rights, equal succession rights were introduced in 1878, and women have been entitled to complete university degrees since 1882. Throughout Finland’s independence, women have served as leaders in virtually all key positions, even as President of the Republic and as prime minister.

The International Gender Equality Prize will be awarded once every seccond year to a person or actor who has promoted gender equality in an internationally recognised way – not for personal use.

The recipient of the prize must allocate the funds to development aid activities that promote the position of women. The target of the prize must meet the Official Development Assistance (ODA) criteria. This denotes public sector measures targeted at developing countries or aid flows that are designed to promote economic developments and wellbeing in developing countries. General aid to international organisations that have been classified as eligible for ODA also qualifies as development aid.

In practice, the recipient of the prize chooses a target that is eligible for development aid. The concrete implementation, including contracts, transfer of funds to the target and steering of implementation, will be carried out by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 March 2017]

Photo credit: Government of Finland

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

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