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News, 9/11/2017

Finland invests in women's health and rights

Finland's long-term work to promote the health and rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and Somalia has produced results.

"Girls must be allowed to be girls, to attend school and gain equal standing in society. They must have the right to make their own decisions and have autonomy over their bodies. Unless rights related to women's sexual and reproductive health are realised, the objectives for sustainable development will not be achieved," says Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen.

On Wednesday, he opened a seminar organised by the Parliament's population and development group, the Family Federation of Finland and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, where the rights of women to access sexual and reproductive healthcare services in fragile conditions was discussed.

Finland is a pioneer in promoting the rights of women and girls and equality between the sexes. This work has already yielded results and work will continue. Worldwide maternal mortality has fallen by half in the last 25 years, and school attendance by girls has increased significantly.

Somalian terveys
Finland supports the International Organization for Migration (IOM) project, which aims to strengthen Somalia's healthcare system. Photograph: Aaro Ylitalo.

Contribution by Finland's Somalis valued

"Somalia is tackling major problems. After years of conflict, the country is extremely fragile and the nation's structures are weak. We cannot provide healthcare and other basic services to all our citizens. Our country's maternal and child mortality rates are the highest in the world," Somalia's Minister of Health and Social Care Fawziya Abiikar Nur said.

Nur thanked Finland's Somalis for their valuable contribution to the development of the Somalian healthcare system.

Doctors and nurses who are part of Finland's Somali community have provided training to their colleagues in Somalia as part of a project supported by Finland. More than 700 healthcare workers have received training as part of the programme. The child mortality rate has dropped from 24 per cent to just five per cent thanks to the maternity and childbirth wards at the Hargeisa Hospital.

Change begins in the mosques

Afghanistan's extremely high rate of maternal mortality has fallen significantly from 2002. Starting from 2003, Finland has engaged in cooperation with Marie Stopes International an organisation that operates in Afghanistan.

 "Our work is centred in the countryside and unsafe areas, where maternal mortality is highest," said Farhad Javid the country director in Afghanistan for Marie Stopes International.

Farhad Javid
According to Farhad Javid, other countries have much to learn from the development of equality in Finland. Photograph: Hanna Päivärinta

The most important part of our work is to change social models and ways of thinking. A cultural change in Afghanistan begins in the mosques. We train local women to act as advisors in villages, and we work in cooperation with religious leaders and other local leaders. Over 200 women already train others, and they also work in unsafe areas," Javid said

"We have managed to launch a sexual education programme in a few schools. More and more women are choosing family planning, and all available contraceptives are in great demand. More than 60,000 women and men have received support from us, and we have provided training to 400 doctors and midwives."

In addition to work by NGOs, Minister Nur and Farhad Javid felt that participation by the private sector was important.

"We are currently working to get the business world in Somalia involved in the development of our healthcare system," Minister Nur details.

Outi Einola-Head

  • Finland is expanding its work to promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. In July, a sum of 21.3 million euros was granted for this work,  which will be for the most part directed to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and international NGOs.
  • Additionally, Finland will allocate 20 million euros in funding to bilateral development programmes in Somalia, Afghanistan and Kenya as well as to supporting humanitarian  work in Syria. The funding will be channelled predominantly via international NGOs.
  • The Marie Stopes International project on reproductive health decreases maternal and child mortality and promotes equality between the sexes in Afghanistan. Finland is to provide 4 million euros in funding between 2018 and 2020.

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