4.5 Initiatives promoting social inclusion and raising awareness
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According to the Youth Act, the promotion of multiculturalism and equality is one of main funding criteria when the subsidies for youth organisations are decided. In this sense, intercultural awareness is very much part of Finnish youth policy and education, and accordingly, initiatives, programmes and projects funded by the Finnish state take this into account.
What comes to formal education, the Director of Customer Relations of the National Agency for Education Jorma Kauppinen describes in the publication Constructive Interaction (2018), edited by Satu Elo, Kristina Kaihari, Paula Mattila and Leena Nissilä, that the ‘policies outlined in the core curriculum documents entail transversal competence themes preparing for a sustainable future, and the teaching and learning of skills based on these competences follows teachers and learners through the entire continuum of education and training. …the entire general education is to adopt the skills required in thinking and learning, taking care of oneself and managing daily life, multi-literacy, participation and influencing. The same framework conditions – respect for human dignity and the ability to live with other people and the entire ecosystem – are also reflected in the value base of each core curriculum and in the characteristics defined for the school culture.’
Just as its defined in the National core curriculum for basic education, so lays the foundation for global citizenship which respects human and cultural diversity while also encouraging pupils to act for positive change. For example, in the basic education (grades 1-9) intercultural awareness, tolerance, freedom and anti-discrimination are included in the value base of civics and religion, and in the general upper secondary schools, these are included in compulsory courses of ethics.
When it comes to the development of the working cultures, the Non-discrimination act states that every municipality, school and educational institution must have a plan regarding how equality is supported and monitored in all their actions. The National Agency for Education offers tools and training for equality planning for educational institutions, see in Finnish and several bodies for youth workers, like for example the Finnish League for Human Rights, see information about education in Finnish. For example, in Oulu pupils have been engaged in planning what the equality plan should consist of and how it is realised by everyone in the school community, while in Aura and Rauma, young people are doing same in youth centres in the evenings during open youth work hours. More about these examples can be read later in autumn 2021 from the research reports by the Finnish Youth Research Network.
The Ministry of Justice plays an important role in offering information and campaigns related to non-discrimination and equality, such as the online resource Equality.fi dedicated to equality in general. In its All in for Equality - National action against discrimination and harassment in Finland (2020-2022) -project funded by the European Commission Rights, Equality and Citizenship -programme, the ministry co-operates with non-governmental organisations, cities, national agencies, other ministries, different networks and young people for campaigning against, for example, racism, see the I’m antiracist -campaign starting in September 2021. The bottom line is to wake up the citizens to intervene when they see something happening which goes against somebody’s human rights, even civil courage trainings are planned. Another quite strong feature is that young people are strongly involved in planning, testing and using the materials. The idea is also to organise ways of dialogue between young people and decision-makers so that mutual understanding and trust has a chance to develop.
Most of the work done for equality is targeted to all. On the other hand, for example the National Youth work and Youth Policy Programme promotes direct help to some often oppressed groups such as ‘Roma youth’, to have their voice heard about non-equality experiences. The workshops also include personnel of the municipalities. Lessons learned and good practices are then widely shared so that other young people at risk of discrimination can also be heard.
The Muuttajat! -working model (in English ‘The people moving’) by Plan International Finland offers training in participation and human rights for young people, who have moved to Finland. Training is offered in schools, among other places, and its own influence group exists for these young people where people engage to influence society by doing projects and campaigns. The work is funded by the Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisations (STEA), which is a state aid authority situated in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
With Finnish Committee for UNICEF’s material on human rights (in Finnish) and global education, it is possible to discuss children’s rights as part of learning and teaching. The materials deal with children’s rights through perspectives related to the environment, water, health, education and equality. There are school visitors also available.
A comprehensive list of children’s and young people’s rights are updated on the website of the Ombudsman for Children in Finland. Lists are available in Finnish, Swedish, English, and Sámi.
Additionally, InfoFinland.fi offers information in 12 different languages about moving or living in Finland, Finnish society, legislation, and rights, including children’s and youths’ rights and obligations. The service is provided in co-operation of several cities and supported by the Finnish state.
In 2012, the Government decided to launch the first National Action Plan for the Prevention of Violent Extremism. In 2016 and 2019, the plan was revised and is now entitled the National Action Plan for the Prevention of Violent Radicalisation and Extremism 2019-2023. The updated plan continues to initiate actions which are still seen as relevant, and which have proven to be effective in the earlier programmes. Also, an overview of the situation of violent extremism in Finland has been released biannually since 2013, see the Annual Report 2018. These biannual overviews are the responsibility of the cross-administrative National Cooperation Network for the Prevention of Violent Extremism, which is appointed by the Ministry of the Interior, and they are published in accordance with the National Action Plan.
The updated Action Plan lists several objectives. For example, the goal is to develop multi-professional Anchor-teams, see the manual called Manual on multi-professional Anchor work - a multi-professional collaboration to promote the well-being of adolescents and prevent crime (2019) written by Tanja Moilanen, Matti Airaksinen and Mari Kangasniemi. Based on the manual, 'Anchor Work refers to a multi-professional collaboration, which:
- is targeted at children and adolescents under 18 years of age to promote well-being and prevent crime,
- is carried out by a multi-professional Anchor team,
- consists of professionals from the police, social services, health services and youth services, and through the expertise and competences which Anchor Work has been ensured of in some other way,
- meets the adolescent and their family at the earliest stage possible,
- seeks to prevent radicalisation into violent extremism (without age limits).‘
The Action Plan also notices the key role which the non-governmental organisations, youth work, friends and family play in promoting the social sense of togetherness.