One of the most interesting and refreshing former presidents here has recently spoken up again about the importance in having female leaders in positions of power.
Naturally a small number of the male species from right-wing journalists, to politicians and academics mocked her because they dislike being second bested by a women, especially one who was a former leader of the Social Democrats and a very popular President!
Her interview was in Finnish but here is a translation off the key words:
“All those countries where women have had a good or strong position and have still had a female leader, then it seems that this situation has gone better. Even if the northern welfare state, which is very equal, our western neighbour Sweden does not seem to be doing very well, but there are men in the lead. ”
She has never been one to minced her words and certainly not now as a free agent!
Earlier this summer she was critical about the USA, a country she said that has not fulfilled its normal function of leading the way through global pandemic crisis, but stood aside and allowed the pandemic to rough ride though the whole of America with disastrous results.
She also spoke about the position of women in society – the glass ceiling that holds them back, the fact that they have to prove themselves more than men at work and then look after the family at home in the evening! She admits that things have improved since she started in politics in the 1960s and 1970s – she commented that the position of women is “like a polish traditional dance, the Polka, 2 steps forwards and 1 step backwards”.
“Young women should build their own identity and not yield up their feminism…” she said.
On the question posed by a schoolgirl “Where are the female dictators, why are there so few female leaders in the world – only in Germany, Finland and in a few other well managed countries – why are they good at their job?”, Halonen answered by talking about 1 or 2 female leaders, Myanmar as a recent example, but she could only name a few dark historical female figures…
As stated above by her, women have done a good job with the ongoing pandemic… she mentioned Sweden as a failure, and although the Swedes can take such criticism, many here in Finland were annoyed by what they thought were these indiscrete comments. She went on to discuss that men are much more interested in discussing wars and conflicts rather than matters like pandemics…
Asked about Finalnd’s current President’s readiness to discuss matters not falling under his authority, like the handling of the pandemic, Halonen said that open discussion is good and no single body should be given absolute or too much power in a democratic society…
She also talked about Putin who was brought up during Soviet times and has seen himself first as the great leader of the new Russia who wants to be seen as an equal among European leaders only to find himself later to be discriminated against by them. He then turned to China and Asia for support in the manner that Russia has done before with their two faces – one facing West and the other East – St. Petersburg and Vladivostok…
The Crimean adventure was a mistake for which Putin has paid a heavy price, but that does no longer explain his more isolated position. In fact, Halonen has said that Finland can have a different role with Russia from the EU by engaging in open discussion and acting as a bridge between Russia and the West… She commented that President Niinistö has done a good job managing this relatiopnship.
“We always have a special relationship with neighbours – especially with big neighbours with a different social system – it is even more important to have that relationship…”
On the question why are there so many leaders who want to be dictators she said that climate change and questions about human rights and many other changes create uncertainties for voters who end up wanting easy solutions with the “windows closed”… It is better she said “to have the windows open…”
Photo: Wikipedia Commons