The Nordic Council of Ministers is in the process of gender mainstreaming its work. The goal is for all Nordic committees of senior officials to work with gender equality issues within their respective domains. The new report, written by Carita Peltonen, is one part of this work. The report gives examples of how the Nordic Committee on Health and Social Affairs (EK-S) can integrate the gender equality perspective in its field. Peltonen for example proposes a Nordic men’s week to bring attention to men’s health and overall situation. A corresponding national week is arranged in Denmark every year.
‘I think it’s a good way to bring attention to these issues. We know that men have a shorter life expectancy than women, and that they are less likely to seek medical attention,’ she says.
She also sees a need to acknowledge different types of family constellations in order to meet the needs of different types of families.
‘The nuclear family tends to set the norm, even though in real life families can be structured in many different ways,’ she explains.
Requesting data on crisis management
The report describes how all Nordic countries have experienced various crises in recent years. Denmark, Finland and Iceland have faced economic crises. A major terror attack occurred in Norway. Finland has experienced several school shootings. Deadly shootings also took place in Copenhagen last year, and Sweden too has witnessed serious acts of violence.
‘Data on how women and men perceive and act in various types of crises could be compiled using the databases that are available in the Nordic countries. Such a project could give society better tools to understand and respond to the insecurity and stress that citizens experience in connection with crises. For example, how does a terror attack or an economic crisis affect people’s health? Does it make women and men experience more stress, and do women and men experience the same type of stress?’ says Peltonen.
Besides suggestions for projects, the report gives a review of the Nordic governments’ policy documents. Peltonen has also conducted a literature review of Nordic gender equality research in the focus domain of EK-S. More exactly, she has looked at dissertations with a gender perspective on healthcare and social issues published 1995–2015.
Varying focus in Nordic research
The literature review shows that researchers in the different Nordic countries have partly focused on different areas.
‘Denmark has a lot of research on socially vulnerable groups such as homeless people and people struggling with addictions. In Norway, there has been a great deal of research on masculinity, and Icelandic researchers are leading the way in the areas of fatherhood, parental benefit and paternal leave,’ says Peltonen.
Research on fatherhood and the role of fathers can be found also in Finland, in particular in relation to World War II, she continues.
‘A large number of fathers died and many children grew up without a father.’
A need for more knowledge about older people
All in all, she thinks that the literature review shows that a lot of knowledge exists regarding the situation of women and men in relation to health and social issues, but she also sees a gap.
‘Not much research has been done on the health of older women and men. Most of the research that exists today concerns the workers in elderly care. There is a need for more knowledge about the needs of older people from a gender equality perspective,’ she says.
According to Kai Koivumäki, senior advisor at EK-S, the report addresses several interesting topics. He believes it will be useful in the continued work with gender equality issues within EK-S.
‘I hope it will be easier to move forward now that we have a clear view of the situation,’ he says.
The proposed new projects will be discussed at the next meeting of EK-S, which will be held 24–25 February.