In March, we celebrate both Womens’ Day (March 8) as well as Minna Canth’s Day, which is also the Day of Equality (March 19). These days are important reminders of the work done and how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality – but also of the work ahead of us.
It’s true that we’ve come a long way. Finland is often among the top ranking countries in terms of gender equality, and has drawn global attention thanks to our all-female lead government.
As Minister for Equality, I occasionally face questions on the need for further efforts, such as why gender equality is still made such a big deal. Aren’t we already equal enough?
To me, the answer is quite clear. To this day, not one country can say that gender equality has been fully achieved, and Finland is no exception. This is for instance seen in the persistent gender pay gap, in how widespread violence against women still is, and in the uneven sharing of care and housework responsibilities. The statistics are very clear on this: We still have work to do.
It’s important to remember that there’s a human being behind every statistic. For them, inequality has very real implications in everyday life. The fact that Finland does well on a general level, or better than somewhere else in the world, does little to solve the inequality they face. We aren’t gender equal before that equality is true for each and every one.
This is also why Sanna Marin’s Government has set a clear goal: To make Finland a leading country in terms of gender equality. This ambition is reflected in the Government Programme and in the government’s Action Plan for Gender Equality, which both contain a record number of gender equality measures. We also know that the ongoing pandemic is posing a further challenge to achieving gender equality. This is why this is not a time to lower the ambitions – but rather raise them – and why the Government has pledged to keep working for gender equality under all circumstances.
In addition to the work needed nationally, we also need renewed efforts for gender equality on the global stage. Over the last decade, we have witnessed a worrying backlash in gender equality and women’s rights, both in Europe and globally. Basic principles on women’s rights are increasingly questioned, for instance sexual and reproductive rights, and gender equality is framed as a threat to family values or to men’s position in society. This is a deeply concerning development – one that puts the achievements we’ve made at risk, and one that threatens to undermine the most fundamental principles the international community has formulated, namely, that we’re all born equal, with the same fundamental rights.
Gender equality is as big a deal today as it ever was. The recent developments are a grim reminder of the fact that no achievements are permanent or to be taken for granted, if we do not keep defending them. The goal to make Finland a leading country in terms of gender equality is therefore imperative, both nationally and internationally. We need to continue our efforts, every day of the year.
Thomas Blomqvist is a Finnish politician, born in Ekenäs in current Raseborg. Before entering to the national politics he worked as a farmer and an entrepreneur. Blomqvist was elected to the municipal council of Ekenäs in 1993. He is the Minister for Nordic Cooperation.
This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of The Finnish Parliament contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times.
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