Tour Two. Social Change.
Girls in Charge
Women in Finland outnumber men by 120,000 – WOW! There are some 2.66 million female and 2.54 male citizens. Men, however, traditionally outnumber women in the positions of power and authority. But that’s changing fast!
Finland elected its first female president, Tarja Halonen, in the year 2000. Now that a woman has reached the highest public office, Finnish girls know they can become anything they want. What is often thought to be the biggest gender barrier — electing a woman as the head of a nation — has been overcome in Finland.
Women did not achieve political equality overnight. Their journey to power began 150 years ago, when the legislature began to expand women’s rights. In 1890, the state established the first public kindergarten in Helsinki.
That also helped empower women. When they could leave their children in school during the day, women had more time to work and participate in politics.
In 1901, women won equal rights to university education. In 1906, Finland was the second country in the world to grant women the right to vote in national elections. Since then, women have held many important positions in politics, the university system and the economy.
In 2001, Save the Children studied the well-being of girls and women in 140 countries in its report, State of the World’s Mothers. The report ranked the quality of women’s lives using indicators such as health and access to education. Together with Sweden, its neighbor to the West, Finland topped the ranking. The United States came in 22nd – can you believe that?
Equality has led to many good things. Finland and other countries that have pursued early gender equality rank among the world’s richest countries. Think about it. When women participate in the workforce and the voting public, the pool of talent doubles!
The Act on Equality between women and men was passed in 1987. It helps women and men combine working life and family life even further. Today 77 percent of women with a child or several children under 17 work full time. 63 percent of women with children under 7 years of age work.
The efforts to promote women’s rights have created opportunities for all minorities. For example, the welfare system, which has increased women´s participation in the society, provides schooling, housing and health care
equally for all citizens.
Although Finland has led the way for gender equality, it continues to work hard to ensure that opportunities remain equal for everybody. We must never stop improving our society!
- Ms. Tarja Halonen is the first
- female Mayor
- female President
- female speaker of parliament
2. What has helped to empower women?
- good child care
- going to kindergarten
- nice daughters
- big families
3. State of the World’s Mothers
- granted women rights
- measured access to education
- ranked girls
- worried about men
- have gained from gender equality
- dislike women
- don´t have health care
- don´t exist in Finland