- Masculinity - Peace”
AGAINST WOMEN -
Conferences in 1997 - A New Vision.
The year 1997 may prove a
uniquely epoch-making year. A new vision is opening up, a new viewpoint to the
old and common yet extremely sensitive issue: violence against women.
Consequently, new ways of changing the situation can be developed: instead of
merely helping the victims, the perpetrators of violence can also be helped to
be liberated, to recover, to abandon their violent behaviour.
The year 1997 saw four
significant conferences at different levels - national, regional, interregional
and global - dealing with violence as a men’s problem and a characteristic of
the masculine culture, and developing ways of transforming the culture of
violence into a culture of peace with equality between men and women.
Violence against women is
an ancient, universal problem occurring in every culture and social group. At
one extremity, there are public rapes and acts of violence in wars often carried
out on a massive scale, and at the other violence related to the most private,
most intimate life in families, within the walls of the home. For centuries,
this has been efficiently silenced. Women have not been allowed to tell
outsiders about things taking place behind the front door; rapes in armed
conflicts have not been visible in statistics or history books. Even public laws
have not been allowed to step over the threshold of the home.
Until now, the issue has
been discussed as if it were a women’s issue and problem, and the topic has
mainly been how women as victims of violence can be helped and supported. Now
the perspective has turned; it is seen that this is the worst problem of the
men’s world. The questions now being asked are: Why do men abuse?; Why are men
violent? Can they be helped to rid themselves of violence? What is essential is
that now men themselves are talking about the issue and accepting collective
responsibility for it. As soon as men do not abuse, women will no longer
continue to be victims.
In 1997 these issues were
discussed thoroughly and extensively at national level in Stockholm: ”Is
violence Masculine? - Conference on men and violence” organised by the
Swedish Government in January; at regional level in Strasbourg: ”Promoting
Equality: A Common Issue for Men and Women” by the Council of Europe in
June; at interregional level in Washington D.C. ”Domestic Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean, Costs,
Programs and Policies” by Inter-American Development Bank in October; and at
global level in the Oslo Expert Group Meeting on ”Male Roles and Masculinities in the Perspective of a Culture of Peace”
by UNESCO in September.
Report by Hilkka
Jussaarenkuja 5 N 134,
00840 Helsinki, Finland
This is just an abstract.
The Finnish Way
Finland has gone from being a poor country early in the 20th century to ranking tenth in the world in life expectancy, education, and income.
The common belief is that a country must first become rich, and then it can provide welfare for its people. The history of the Nordic societies tells a different story; here, wealth has been built by building welfare for people.
This success was built on a notion of welfare entirely different from welfare as understood in the United States. In the US “being on welfare” is humiliating, and welfare benefits often depend on the recipient’s relationship to something or someone else. What is radically different about the Finnish system is that here welfare benefits and services are rights that everyone living permanently in the country is individually entitled to. Finnish people have economic, social, and political citizenship.
For women, it has proved particularly important that social benefits and services belong to everyone without distinction as to sex, marital status, employment, race, or nationality. Thus Finnish women are entitled to enjoy their social entitlements whether or not they are married or employed.
This social welfare system is based on a long heritage of democracy, social justice, and equality, and a sense of collective responsibility for the well-being of the people. The workers’ movement has been strong in the Nordic countries since the beginning of the 20th century. But ever since 1906, when Finland became the first country in the world to grant women the vote and full political rights, the most important force in building the welfare system has been Finnish women.
In 1899, when the majority of Finns were living in poverty, a group of women established the Martha Organization to advance the country’s economic and cultural life. The strategy was to mobilize educated women—often teachers and home economists—who volunteered to visit women in their rural homes and teach them about childcare, cooking, housekeeping, handicrafts, raising animals, growing vegetables and fruits, using berries, mushrooms, and wildlife from the forests, and fish from the thousands of lakes.
The movement helped women earn their own income; otherwise, the husband often held the family finances totally in his hands. As the skills, knowledge, and income of rural women grew, their status, self-confidence, and respect rose.
This “Martha method” improved the health and well-being of children and families, and helped to build the early foundations for the welfare society. The results showed, for instance, in rapidly declining birth rates and infant mortality and rapidly rising life expectancy.