Finland’s female-led government addressed the media to provide an update on the coronavirus epidemic on 4 May 2020. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)


EX-PRESIDENT Tarja Halonen has come under criticism for her remark about the reasons for the failures and successes of countries in keeping the new coronavirus under control.

Halonen stated on YLE’s Politiikkaradio on Thursday that countries where the social position of women is strong and that have a history of female leaders have fared better with the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“In all countries where women have had a strong position and that have had female leaders, it seems that the situation has gone better,” she assessed. “Our western neighbour Sweden doesn’t seem to be faring all too well, but then again men are in charge there.”

Johanna Vuorelma, a post-doctoral research fellow at Tampere University, reminded that it remains premature to make any judgements about which countries have failed and which have succeeded in their coronavirus strategies.

“The pandemic is still in its acute stage. It’s also unreasonable and diplomatically careless to take digs at the bleak coronavirus situation in our neighbouring country,” she tweeted.

She also drew attention to the problematic nature of portraying the situation as a competition between Finland and Sweden.

“Rather than competition, I’d hope for more mutual empathy and humility between the countries. Everyone is faced with difficult decisions, and the decisions can’t be solved exclusively at the national level, but through international co-operation,” added Vuorelma.

Kimmo Grönlund, a professor of political science at Åbo Akademi University in Turku, was the first to call attention to the statement by Halonen, labelling it as disgraceful. The death toll from the virus, he underlined, cannot be the only indicator used to measure how countries have succeeded in managing the crisis.

“It’s difficult to assess the situation while the pandemic is still ongoing. The accounts must be settled after, using a variety of metrics,” he stated.

Halonen herself offered her views to the debate about the changing concept of safety, saying the unique experiences of women can help them to deal with safety risks such as the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not only about whether or not there have been women in leadership positions, but also about whether women have a strong social position,” she said. “That’s when those fields have been deemed more important than in male-dominated societies.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi