Every culture develops a particular way of dealing with matters related to women. Currently, the neo-Feminist movement is gaining adepts and visibility, and, in some regions, it has even adopted violent protest methods. The #MeToo movement let out some steam, but the situation of women in many regions of the world (including the developed world) remains, in many cases, unjust.

Finland is exceptionally advanced in these matters, however, there are numerous protests aiming to change structural inequalities still affecting women’s potential in domestic and work life. Nevertheless, instances of injustice are better dealt with through prevention, and what a better way to do it than through education and active service.

Last October 14th, 2019, eight women of foreign background graduated as “Neighborhood Mother” (Naapuriäiti in Finnish) in the city of Espoo. The seven-week course and the graduation celebration took place in Me-talo Espoo. The course started in September and consisted of six modules that included information and exercises related to volunteering, work life, social services, health & well being, democracy and event organization.

The coordinator of the course, Analyn Wagas-Hyvönen, Espoo’s Naapuriäiti program area coordinator trained the participants in most of the topics and invited external trainers from organizations like Länsi-Uudenmaan pelastuslaitos (Länsi-Uusimaa Rescue Department) who trained the participants in home safety and fire control. The Multicultural department in Espoo provided information about raising bilingual and bicultural children.

Regarding the projects to be started by the new neighborhood mothers, Wagas-Hyvönen mentions the following events: Children Movie Club, Bringing up Teenagers in Finland, and Family Group Activities and Handicrafts.

Towards a feminine leadership style

Life is not that rosy for women in Finland; however, the situation is particularly delicate for women of foreign background since some may lack the basic knowledge to live a fulfilling life in Finland. Fortunately, Finnish society does not lack organizations working to alleviate some of these situations. Nicehearts Association works to promote well-being in Finland. Liisa Kulta, Project Manager of the Naapuriäiti project within Nicehearts Association explains what a neighborhood mother is and how you can become one.

What is a ‘Neighborhood Mother’?

“The program is originally from Denmark and it started in Finland in the year 2016. The first training started in Espoo, Vantaa, and Lappeenranta and in 2017-2018 and the project expanded also in Helsinki and Imatra. As a result, we have trained over 200 Neighborhood Mothers and almost 60% of them found their own path either getting a job or a study place,” Kulta commented.

About the purpose of the training course “Neighbourhood Mother – from target groups to actors!” and the target group, she added that the project aims at reaching out to women at risk of exclusion and to encourage them to become active in society. The project provides women with peer support, tools for organizing suburban activities in their own area, tools to help others, and support for the identification of their own expertise.

Who can become a Naapuriäiti?

Neighbourhood Mothers activities create a holistic and peer-based platform for women to find their own path. Women who have completed their education can act as Neighbourhood Mothers. Every neighborhood mother is an expert on her own integration path, that allows her to be a support for those women whose integration is still in the early stages. Neighborhood mothers organize their own activities and collaborate with other actors in their area.

The projects that have succeeded are mostly related to health and well being and women empowerment. However, there are several projects about handicrafts, language lessons and open group discussions for families.

Any woman who has lived in Finland for some time and adapted to the Finnish society can participate in the program. Some of the participants have been at home with children and are currently looking for a job or retired, above all they want to help others by being active and organizing specific events that have an impact on society. The benefits of being a neighborhood mother are that the participants gain peer support, learn and develop tools to organize events, and acquire tools to help others. Participants also gain support to discover a woman’s passive know-how: that knowledge that goes unrecognized and thus, not valued or unpaid.

Become a Naapuriäiti this winter!

Analyn Wagas-Hyvönen, Espoo’s area coordinator invites all foreign background women in Finland to become active in society. The next course starts with an introduction on 7.11.2019 and after six modules, it ends in December 2019. The course is available throughout the Helsinki Capital Region in the cities of Espoo, Helsinki, and Vantaa.

More information on the courses here and also on Facebook

by email analyn.wagas@nicehearts.com

The writer is a freshly graduated Neighborhood Mother from Espoo course, this piece was originally published on Foreignersinfinland.fi

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