(CNN Spanish) — Finland is a relatively small country in population, with a prosperous economy and a world-renowned educational system. The world has looked at this nation as a source of inspiration, not only because of its high level of development, but also because its government is largely made up of women.
Finland is a country with high levels of development that are reflected in its educational system, its prosperous economy, top-quality hospitals and medical care, it has the best public services on the planet, and it promotes an egalitarian society. Although that does not mean that it is exempt from social problems, such as alcoholism, sexual harassment and racism.
Here’s a look at this country located in northern Europe in the Baltic Sea region, according to data from the CIA Factbook:
Population: 5,587,442 (July 2021)
(The Latin American country with a similar population is Costa Rica, with 5.1 million.)
Idiom: Finnish (official) 86.9%, Swedish (official) 5.2%, Russian 1.5%, other 6.4% (2020 data).
Extension: 338,145 km²
(Paraguay, the closest Latin American country in size, is 406,752 km²).
Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia.
Form of government: Parlamentary republic
President: Sauli Niinistö
Prime Minister: Sanna Marin
Religion: Lutheran 67.8%, Greek Orthodox 1.1%, other 1.7%, unspecified 29.4% (2020)
Economy: GDP US$47,300 (2020)
Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy from Russia after 1809. It became fully independent from Russia in 1917, according to the CIA Factbook.
In World War II, Finland cooperated with Germany to defend its independence and resisted subsequent invasions by the Soviet Union, but with some loss of territory.
In the second half of the 20th century, it changed from an agricultural economy to a modern diversified industrial economy. Per capita income is one of the highest in Western Europe.
It has been a member of the European Union since 1995 and uses the euro as its currency.
They describe it as a modern welfare state whose axes are high quality education, the promotion of equality and a national social welfare system.
Its big challenges are an aging population and the fluctuations of an export-driven economy, according to the CIA.
A government led by women
In Finland gender equality is a reality. In 2021, it was ranked second in the World Economic Forum’s report on the global gender gaponly behind its Nordic colleague, Iceland.
Currently the Finnish coalition government is led by a 36-year-old woman: Sanna Marin, who came to power in 2019 becoming the world’s youngest prime minister. The president (head of state) is Sauli Niinistö.
The government coalition she heads is made up of five political parties, all of them led by women and almost all of their members in their 30s.
That women have a central role in the politics of this country is not new. It is the culmination of a national effort for gender equality that began even before Finland’s independence in 1917 (from Russia), as noted by Naomi Moriyama and William Doyle, co-authors of “The Sisterhood of the Enchanted Forest: Sustenance, Wisdom, and Awakening in Finland’s Karelia”.
Finland was the first country to grant women political rights, both to vote and to be elected. She did it in 1906 when it was a dukedom of Russia.
A year later, the 19 women elected for the Finnish Parliament they were the world’s first women parliamentarians.
Sanna Marin, the youngest prime minister in history
Marin entered politics when he was 20 years old and soon rose through the ranks of the center-left Social Democratic Party. At the age of 27 she was elected leader of the Tampere City Council, and three years later she became an MP. She later she was Minister of Transport.
In 2019, at 34, Marin became the country’s youngest prime minister, after the leader of her Social Democratic Party resigned.
Before entering politics, Marin worked as a cashier, in a bakery, and distributed magazines in high school to earn extra money. She grew up in the Pirkkala region, north of Helsinki, in a family where diversity was normal. Her parents divorced her when she was a child due to her father’s alcoholism, she said.