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Finland's first gender sensitivity trainers start work

Finland's first gender sensitivity educators said they want to challenge gender stereotypes.

Loisto setlementti ry:n sukupuolisensitiivisyyden kasvattaja -koulutuksen osallistujat.
"Be here. Be you. Belong." Finland's first group of gender sensitivity trainers pose together. Image: Pauliina Sneck / Loisto setlementti ry

The work of six newly-certified gender sensitivity trainers involves teaching professionals in the education sector on how to approach and guide children as they navigate puberty and develop their own identities.

Organised by youth organisation Loisto Settlement, the new trainers work at youth outreach centres such as Girls' Houses and other youth support services in cities across Finland, including Rovaniemi, Kemi, Kuopio, Joensuu, Turku and Helsinki.

Training coordinator Tatu Tossavainen from the Loisto Settlement said that gender issues limit, direct and otherwise affect the lives of very many children and teens in Finland. Work is still needed in all sectors, he said.

Myths in need of busting

The fluidity of gender and sexuality has emerged as a social talking point in Finland with the rise of LGBTQ activism and the passing of the same-sex marriage law in 2017.

"Gender sensitivity is not about dissolving genders, but rather about identifying gendered biases in society and trying to affect them so that everyone can live more equally," said volunteer coordinator Matti Virtasalo from Kemi. "If a woman wants to work as a dressmaker, that is considered fine and the woman can be happy with her decision. If a man wants to do the same work, and has been told that boys aren't supposed to know how to sew, that is miles away from the thinking on equality that we want to represent," said Virtasalo.

According to Tossavainen, an idea central to gender sensitivity is to let people be who they are.

"It is crucial that we recognise the spectrum of gender identities. Outreach work can be gender sensitive whether working with boys, girls or non-cisgender people," Tossavainen said. "We want children to have the best opportunities, unhindered by gender norms."

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