Demo Finland hosted significant international guests from Zambia last week. Demo Finland has cooperated with Zambia National Women’s Lobby since 2013. Goal of the cooperation is to improve women’s political participation and to support women candidates in the elections. In the elections last autumn, women’s share of the elected candidates increased despite the difficult conditions.

The purpose of the visit of Zambia National Women’s Lobby’s Chair Beauty Katebe and Executive Director Juliet Kaira-Chibuta was to get to know Finland’s equality policies and political culture, to get ideas and information, and to plan the Demo Finland supported program for the next years. Representatives of ZNWL arrived to Finland with excitement even though the coldness and snowfall raised some suspicion.

On Tuesday, the eve of the International Women’s Day Katebe and Chibuta got to witness the side of Finland’s equality situation that is not that rosy: we participated in a seminar organized by the National Council of Women of Finland, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Women’s Line and Network of Women Parliamentarians, that addressed violence against women.

Discussions on equality continued at the informative visit to parliament, but in addition Katebe and Chibuta got to hear about the political system and political practices in Finland. The feminist group of the parliament was discussed with Anders Adlercreutz (Swedish People’s Party), the functioning of the parliamentary groups with parliamentary assistant Raine Katajamäki and the politics in opposition and her upcoming term as the chair of the Network of Women Parliamentarians with Hanna Sarkkinen (Left Alliance). Evening program included a visit to the Swedish People’s Party’s campaigning kick-off and a dinner with Demo Finland’s chairperson Eva Biaudet.

Hanna Sarkkinen (Left Alliance) told about politics in opposition.
Hanna Sarkkinen (Left Alliance) told about politics in opposition.

At the International Women’s Day seminar organized in cooperation by Demo Finland and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland our guests got a wonderful opportunity to listen to Finnish politicians, experts and researchers that work on equality issues. Beauty Katebe gave a presentation on the challenges and successes that women of Zambia had in the elections in autumn 2016 and participated in a panel discussion with MP’s Tiina Elovaara (Finns) and Silvia Modig (Left Alliance) to bring global perspective. Both Katebe and Chibuta felt that the seminar was very successful, and believed that learning took place on both sides: Finns listened to the presentation on the situation in Zambia with interest. The ZNWL representatives were especially excited about meeting the former president Tarja Halonen: “Her presence inspired us, parliamentarians and young women politicians, and we as the representatives of Zambia National Women’s Lobby felt honored to share the platform with her”, Juliet Kaira-Chibuta told.

Meeting the former president Tarja Halonen was one of the highlights of the visit.
Meeting of the former president Tarja Halonen was one of the highlights of the visit.

Another highlight on Wednesday was a visit to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health where an excellent presentation on the equality situation in Finland and its challenges and on the organizations, that work on the field, was offered. “At the meeting we learned issues, that will assist us to push for the implementation of the Gender Equality Law in Zambia”, Juliet Kaira-Chibuta described.

The rest of the week was spent planning the new program of Demo Finland and Zambia National Women’s Lobby and visiting events of Swedish People’s Party and the Women’s Organization of the Centre Party. The parties received our guests warmly and the events were an excellent chance to discuss interesting topics and to exchange thoughts and ideas. There was also a lot of interest on the situation in Zambia and on the work of Demo Finland. Our Zambian guests were given tools on how the civil society, parties and the parliament discuss and how important this communication is.

Women of the World -festival was organized in Finland for the first time on 11–12th March in honor of Finland’s hundred-year independency celebrations. Beauty Katebe participated in Women who make a difference -panel discussion at the festival together with two other equality activists.

Our guests got to know both the successes and the challenges of equality in Finland They were impressed by the woman president, cross-party networking, cooperation and the activities of the women’s organizations. On the other hand, they were surprised that in the leading country of equality there is still a long way to equal pay, and that the violence against women is a real problem in Finland as well. The week was an excellent opportunity for us Finns to reconsider our real situation on equality from a new perspective and to reflect it to the development at the international level. Katebe and Kaira-Chibuta felt that the week gave them a lot of material, information and inspiration to continue and to develop their actions in Zambia.

Juliet Kaira-Chibuta and Beauty Katebe participated to the Women's Day seminar at the House of Estates.
Juliet Kaira-Chibuta and Beauty Katebe participated in the Women’s Day seminar at the House of Estates.