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Finland celebrates equality on Minna Canth Day

March 19th is a national flag day celebrating equality and the trailblazing work of writer and journalist Minna Canth.

Minna Canth n. 17-vuotiaana.
Minna Canth at approximately 17. Image: Kuopion kulttuurihistoriallinen museo

March 19th is a national flag day celebrating equality and the trailblazing, stereotype-breaking work of writer and journalist Minna Canth. 

Canth was born 173 years go today, and is considered one of the most influential playwrights and realist prosaists in the history of the Finnish language. She was also the first Finnish-speaking female journalist.

Canth rose to fame in the late 1800s as a writer, intellectual and devout women's rights advocate. Canth tackled difficult issues such as poverty, class, unhappy marriages, and infanticide. The play The Worker's Wife is considered one of her most iconic pieces of work.

Finland has taken massive leaps forward in terms of gender equality since Canth's time. According to statistics, Finland is now one of the best places in the world to be a woman.

Finnish women were the first in the world to be given the right to vote and run for parliament over a hundred years ago in 1906. The country has been named the best place to be a mother in 2013 and 2014, only to be bumped to second place by Norway in 2015.

On International Women's Day, the Economist ranked Finland the fourth best place to be a working woman in its glass-ceiling index. This means women in Finland are more likely than men to have a university degree, and have better representation in company boards and politics than in other OECD countries.

There's still a lot of work to be done, however. In 2014, Finland was ranked the second most violent country in the EU for women; 47 percent of women in Finland have experienced physical or sexual violence at some time since the age of 15. Just this week party office leaders of the National Coalition Party were accused of humiliating and chauvinistic behaviour in the workplace.

So treat yourself today, and roll up your sleeves for more work towards equality tomorrow.

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