Anne Meskanen: Literacy enhances women's opportunities

Anne Meskanen: Literacy enhances women's opportunities

The Finnish Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women Issues in Women and Gender Equality invited to the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum

Finland is one of the few countries in the world, along with Sweden, Norway and the United States, where there is a post of a commissioner within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on issues of women and gender equality. The task of the Finnish ‘ambassador for equality’ is to assist protecting the rights of women in the world. In this regard, Finland, holding the 2nd place in the gender equality rating, is an excellent example and should share its expertise, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs believes. Equal rights and literacy of women play an important role in reducing poverty and ensuring social justice, Anna Meskanen believes. Her work is consonant with topics of the Female Diplomats’ Summit, one of the platforms of the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum.

Anne Meskanen obtained a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Helsinki, then worked as a journalist and foreign corresponded in the Demari Newspaper. Anne Meskanen’s book ‘Women at the European Forums’ about the difficulties European women face, has become a bestseller.

In her current diplomatic mission, Ms Meskanen relies on the achievements of democracy of her native country. Women’s organizations in Finland appeared at the end of the 19th century. Today there is a large number of organizations that represent women’s interests in politics, for example, the Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations.

Finnish women are highly politically active: since the 1980s, the turnout of women in elections has exceeded that of men. Often, women hold ministerial positions (in particular, ministers of defence, justice and foreign affairs) and the highest professional posts.

Women in Finland held the posts of prime minister, finance minister, defence minister and, of course, the president. The country should share its practices with the rest of the world, holds the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, even in Finland, there are still ‘female’ and ‘male’ professions. For example, 90% of nurses are women, and there are more men in technical professions. Another serious issue is violence against women. In Finland, almost 60% of the violence is ‘domestic’, i.e. comes from a husband, father or live-in partner. At that, many cases remain unreported.

There are also studies on how violence against women affects the economy. We are talking about the loss of billions of euros.

We must alter the attitude on the ‘female’ issue starting from school – this is one of the tasks Ms Meskanen had set for her tenure as the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women Issues in Women and Gender Equality when she came to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in 1996. At that time, she published Women at the European Forums, a book on women facing challenges within the European Union. Since then, she has held diplomatic service posts in the Finnish Embassies of Romania, Syria and Kosovo, as well as with the Finnish Mission to the United Nations in New York.

In 2013 in Kosovo, Anna Meskanen supported the development of sports and recreational programmes.

Sporting events and active games were aimed at promoting the solidarity of the youth of Kosovo from various ethnic groups. In addition, a female diplomat emphasized the importance of physical exercises for women’s health.

By the way, Anna’s hobbies include long-distance running, scuba diving and travelling.

From 1 September 2015 Ms Meskanen served as Ambassador of Finland to Afghanistan. An agreement on expanding Finland’s contribution to the UNESCO literacy programme in Afghanistan was signed in 2016 with her participation.

“The outcomes of this programme demonstrated how literacy could change lives. Education expands the right and opportunities of women and girls,” Ms Meskanen noted.

The Finnish diplomatic mission in Afghanistan was discontinued in March 2017 after the terrorist attack in Kabul.

Today, as the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women Issues in Women and Gender Equality Anne Meskanen states that education and literacy play an essential role in reducing poverty and ensuring social justice. Romania, Afghanistan, Syria and Kosovo, the countries where the Finnish diplomat Anne Meskanen promoted programmes to improve women’s literacy.

“A competent woman contributes to the well-being of the whole family and the community in general,” Ms Meskanen believes.

In turn, the Ambassador herself beside her native Finnish language speaks Swedish, English, French and German. Literature is another Anne Meskanen’s passion. 

Tina Stankevich, Eurasian Women's Community Information Agency