110th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage and Annual Midsummer Celebrations

Finland, 27 May - 23 Jun 2016
110th anniversary of Finnish women’s suffrage and gender equality nowadays ++ Head of government announces ministerial changes ++ Test run of mobile alarm systems for reindeer accident prevention ++ Juhannus - Finnish Midsummer. by Anne-Kristin Beinhauer
110th anniversary of Finnish women’s suffrage and gender equality nowadays

Exactly 110 years ago Finnish women received the right to vote and to stand for vote in Finland’s elections. The Finnish parliament enacted the law on the June 1st 1906 making Finland the first European country with women’s suffrage and the third globally. In 1907, when the first parliament elections after the inauguration of the new law took place, nineteen of the elected parliament members were female, so to say nearly every tenth member.

Former president Tarja Halonen, elected in 2000 as the first female president, who beforehand had been the first female foreign minister, took the anniversary as an occasion to speak in Helsingin Sanomat about gender equality. She states her wish for more equality also in working life referring to the fighting spirit of the first female parliamentarians as exemplary. Sari Raassina, the chairwoman of the parliamentary woman’s network, points out a good level of equality between sexes in legislation sector but agrees with Halonen regarding the situation in working life: “Looking at companies or the involvement of women in scientific research groups there are many points where we have to keep active efforts to find and solve obstacles to the realization of gender equality.”

Therefore from time to time the idea of introducing a determined rate as to how many women should work within a specific sector has arisen. Raassina points out that these rates will be definitely put into practice for a certain time, if equality can’t be reached by itself. “It’s only reasonable that the capacities of every single citizen are used in the best possible way.”

Head of government announces ministerial changes

After a government plenary session several ministerial changes have been made in the Finnish government. Sauli Niinistö, president of the Republic, has appointed the so far Minister of Interior Petteri Orpo, 46, as new finance minister and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Paula Risikko, 56, as Minister of the Interior. Risikko, who as a seasoned conservative member of parliament has already occupied several cabinet positions, has a phd in health sciences and is regardes as a specialist in health care reform. The new Minister for Foreign Trade and Development is MP Kai Mykkänen, 36, who holds degrees in politics and economics and has been in charge of several administrative positions in the industries and public service. He took his oath of office and a judicial oath at the beginning of the governmental meeting.

Minister of Finance Alexander Stubb and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Lenita Toivakka have been released from their offices. Toivakka had decided to quit the position due to a public debate caused by her involvement in a family business accused for tax avoidance. She concluded that the current circumstances might damage the popularity of the National Coalition Party. Alexander Stubb's decision was motivated by his defeat at the previous party convention, after which he did not want to take any cabinet position.
Other matters of discussion in the plenary session were the division of the Ministers’ responsibilities, the composition of ministerial committees and ministerial deputies.

Test run of mobile alarm systems for reindeer accident prevention

Reindeers and elks crossing the streets are a huge traffic risk in the Skandinavian countries. Each year about 4000 car accidents involving reindeers are registered in Finland, despite of extensive prevention efforts. Now the ‘Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment’ (ELY) of Lapland has started a new project for road safety using smartphones. The aim is to halve the amount of crashes involving reindeers by 2020.

Project leader Maria Timo-Huhtala explained the procedure to Koillissanomat newspaper: In June about 1000 professional drivers were equipped with so called reindeer alarm mobiles – ordinary smartphones with a newly developed reindeer warning application. The application allows drivers to exchange warnings about reindeer movements. Having programmed the reindeer alarm system for easy handling the project members hope for a successful test run. If everything goes to plan, the application shall be incorporated in navigation systems and become available for free and be accessible for all road users in Finland. Especially, traffic within reindeer herding areas is expected to profit from the new system.

A first study on applicability of the mobile app was already carried out between 2013 and 2015 on two road sections. Encouraging results have led to an extension of the experiment on the whole reindeer herding area.

Juhannus – Finnish Midsummer

Juhannus, the feast of midsummer and light, is one of the most important celebrations in the Finnish festivity calendar. Celebrating the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, Juhannus takes place each year on the Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June – days during which the sun in the polar region does not sink at night.

With beginning of June school kids are already on holidays and for the majority of the working people the summer holidays start with Juhannus Eve. Being close to nature and enjoying the summer is of major importance for many during midsummer. Therefore, people traditionally like to celebrate the feast in a summer cottage in the middle of nature together with friends and family. The time there is often spent with visits to the sauna, barbecuing, dancing, fishing and swimming.

Another traditional part of the midsummer celebrations are big bonfires, a tradition which reaches back far in Juhannus history. According to folklore, the shortest night of the year, the so-called nightless night, is full of magic and the time of witches and bad spirits. So, originally, the bonfire acted as a deterrent of evil.
The summer with its long nights is predestined for outdoor activities. Therefore, around Juhannus, lots of music festivals of all stiles take place throughout Finland. They offer plenty alternatives for spending the shortest night of the year.

CR-FI_2016-02_women's suffrage
Source: Alex Federley | pd

"Whole family together in the new parliament"; a parody about women's suffrage in Finland. Published originally in humour magazine Velikulta

Related topics

Alexander Stubb
gender equality
Lenita Toivakka
Sauli Niinistö
traffic safety
women's suffrage

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