#Girlstakeover at the Finnish Embassy

On the 11th of October, we had the rare opportunity to takeover the Finnish Embassy as part of The International Day of the Girl. The Finnish Embassy was the ideal location for a takeover as Finnish gender policies are some of the best in the world. We wanted to learn more about the policies and legislation that makes Finland one of the best places to be a woman, from schools to politics.

After arriving at the beautifully designed embassy, we met our host, Antti, the Deputy Head of Mission. He gave us a quick tour before we dived headlong into our three main tasks for the day:

1. Public Diplomacy
Compared to other Scandinavian countries Australians know little about Finland. This seems like a real injustice given how beautiful, sustainable and equal Finland is. After reading the Finnish public diplomacy brief, we worked on practical ways to increase Australian knowledge and interest in Finland. Our age allowed us to think of how the embassy could use social media to attract the interest of younger Australians, particularly teenagers.

2. Itinerary for Finnish Business Delegation
The Finns are well known for their ingenious creations and innovative technologies. Hence, it was no surprise that the Embassy was organising for a delegation of Finnish business people to come to Australia to examine potential investment opportunities in Smart City programs. Smart Cities aims to use innovative, renewable technologies to create greener and cleaner cities. We were tasked with planning an itinerary for the delegation to cities and towns with potential for future growth. After considering areas of growth in Australia, we worked alongside Antti to produced an alternate itinerary to the one originally planned by the Embassy.

3. Discussion on Improvements for the Australian Education System
The key focus of our discussion was how the Australian education system can adapt in response to the increasingly technology-based job market. Using the Finnish education system as a comparison, we agreed on three actions which would ensure Australian students a secure future in the technological age:
  • A more project-based system, similar to that in Finland, in which all subjects link and enhance the others.
  • Teaching coding to students from Year 6 to Year 10. Coding will be a necessary skill of the future, regardless of job, so it is imperative that students have this foundation. 
  • Training teachers on the importance of gender equality, respectful relationship and positive communication with minority groups. Well trained teachers will be able to pass their knowledge on to students and create more inclusive, gender-equal classrooms.
In addition to our official tasks, we were lucky enough to meet with the Finnish Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Lars Backstöm. His knowledge of Finnish policies allowed us to have a productive discussion on Finland’s successes in gender equality, particularly in the political and public service sphere.

In typical Finnish style, we concluded our time at the Embassy with some hobbyhorsing. This whacky Finnish sport had us laughing uncontrollably and was the perfect end to such a great day.

After our time at the Embassy, we were interviewed by ABC Radio on what we had learnt at the Embassy and affirmative actions that Australia can take to increase gender equality. We were quick to point out how Finland’s focus on creating a more equal society has led to its successes.

We would like to thank TGLN 2017, Plan International, ABC Canberra and, of course, the Finnish Embassy for providing us with such an eye-opening and unique experience! We can’t wait for the workshop with Kaisa Kokko and future partnerships with the Finnish Embassy!

Isabella Notarpietro and Imogen de Brauer Nicola


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