Friday, December 7, 2012

In honor of 95 years of Finnish Independence

Finland is a great country in many respects. The Nordic country of 5.4 million people has graced the top spot in many international rankings. After 95 years of independence, Finland has a lot to show for its self-governance.

In 2010, Newsweek magazine ranked Finland the best country to live in - in terms of living conditions. The Global Gender Gap Report 2012 published by the World Economic Forum reveals that Finland is a leader in promoting gender equality. The Republic of Finland occupies second place in a ranking of 135 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2012. (See page 8 of the report). Finland ranked third, third, second, second, third, third on the index in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 respectively. In the field of education, Finland's education system is ranked best in the developed world, according to a 2012 report published by Pearson. In its 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International placed Finland at the top of the list of the world's least-corrupt countries.

Although at the moment smartphone giant Nokia is struggling to keep its head above water as its cash pile dwindles, it is worth highlighting that it is a Finnish invention.

Celebrations marking 95 years of Finnish independence are well-deserved. Finland has come a long way since independence from the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland.

The Finnish Declaration of Independence was adopted on 6 December 1917. [Source] The country has shown resilience - bouncing back from a gloomy colonial era under the Swedish Empire and the Russian Empire, and a bitter civil war that was fought from January to May 1918. [Source] Finland now stands tall as a force to reckon with in the region.

However, it is worthy to note that while the majority of native Finns enjoy freedom and opportunities that come with [real] independence, all is not well for all groups of people in Finland - especially immigrants and visible minorities. The threat of right-wing extremism, hostility towards Muslims and anti-immigration sentiments is real. Anti-immigration groups like Perussuomalaiset (PS), Suomen Sisu and others have hijacked public debate - spreading racism, prejudice, far-right ideologies and "blind nationalism".

Finland still has a lot of work to do in the field of diversity and equal opportunities for all without discrimination of any kind on grounds of race, color, ethnic or national origin and other grounds. Social and professional exclusion of certain groups of people because of what they look like or where they come from is obsolete.

Some people may wonder why I (a Cameroonian from West Africa) am concerned about the state of affairs in a country in northern Europe.

Well, it turns out I have two beautiful kids of Finnish nationality - by birth (Perustuslain 5 §). In the eyes of some people, they look different and they might be treated differently by a growing number of far-right ideologists. I therefore have a dog in the fight for equality in Finland. I will like to see my children judged for who they are not where their father comes from.
Lapsieni vuoksi toivon, että yhtenä päivänä kaikki Suomessa asuvat ihmiset nauttivat tasa-arvoa ja yhdenvertaisuutta, ilman syrjintää etnisen alkuperän, ihon värin, sukupuolisen tai muun henkilöön liittyvän syyn perusteella.
On the bright side, 6 November is a well-deserved Independence Day. Given its history, Finland has come a long way but the country should not lose sight of the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done to foster equality, diversity, mutual respect and acceptance. In the words of Maya Angelou: "It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength."

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