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Hän is the inclusive Finnish pronoun that stands for equal opportunity.

It's a symbol for a better world where people are not defined by their background, gender or appearance.

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Hän stories

You’re a hän. I’m a hän. Everyone’s a hän. In Finland, everyone is entitled to be treated equally, enabling them to belong, participate and achieve their full potential. Through this article series, get to know how mutual respect and solidarity, along with equal opportunities and decent living standards for all, lead to an inclusive society.

Hän honours

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Equality is a core value for Finland and its people. Finland wants to highlight the important work that is being done every day to promote equality-related values in society, around the world. Here is a list of the Hän Honours that Finland has presented so far.

  • 12/06/2019

    Peru

    Laboratoria

    Laboratoria provides women in Latin America with a quality education with skills needed to build a successful career in the technology sector. The labor placement rate of the last graduates in Lima exceeded 90%. Led by its CEO Mariana Costa Checa, Laboratoria has inspired thousands of people and organizations to join this cause.

  • 31/05/2019

    France

    Inter-LGBT

    Inter-LGBT is the umbrella organization of French lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender associations and the organizer of the annual Paris Pride celebrations. Inter-LGBT has promoted the cooperation with foreign embassies in Paris and founded the Embassies for Equality network.

  • 31/05/2019

    Japan

    Ms Chizuko Ueno

    Chizuko Ueno is a pioneer in feminism and gender studies who has tirelessly and fearlessly addressed controversial issues such as gender discrimination and sexual violence, and provoked debate to make Japan a better society to live in. Author of many books, she’s currently the Chairperson of non-profit organization Women’s Action Network.

  • 31/05/2019

    Indonesia

    Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation

    Rumah Kita Bersama is a research institution aiming to empower women, children and marginalized groups in Indonesia. They pursue an equal society by increasing understanding about discriminating social and religious structures through advocacy, education and awareness building.

  • 31/05/2019

    Singapore

    Mr. Thambyrajah T, Registrar, Nanyang Polytechnic

    Mr. Rajah invests his time to support the opportunities of the less privileged, through his work and his volunteer activities. He is a vocal supporter of an equal Singapore through his community work in Singapore Indian Development Association. He is a father of two girls and continuously works to enable everyone be the best that they can be.

  • 31/05/2019

    Spain

    Mujeres para el Dialogo y la Educación

    An independent non-profit association founded in 2005 to promote gender equality by means of dialogue, education, research, training and a wide range of activities focused on strengthening women within society.

Q&A

  • Hän is both ‘he’ and ‘she’ at once – or any other gender. It’s the inclusive Finnish personal pronoun that symbolises equal opportunity.

    It symbolises a better world, where people are not defined by their background or appearance. Hän doesn’t pay attention to your gender, or your social status.

    Finland wants to introduce this word – and the thinking behind it – to the rest of the world. There is still much to be done to promote inclusivity and equality, so let’s work together for a bias-free society!

  • Finland wants to encourage international dialogue and collaboration on equality by introducing the Finnish word hän to the world. In this campaign, hän is a tool for telling the Finnish story about equality as a cornerstone and source of strength for society.

    Finland also wants to thank the world for all the words that have made their way into the Finnish language. If you go back far enough, Finnish has borrowed a majority of its words from other languages. Now, we want to give something back in return.

  • Thousands of languages are in active use in the world today. For this campaign, we have selected a few widely spoken languages from which Finnish has borrowed words.

  • The pronoun hän appeared in 1543 in The ABC Book, the first printed book published in Finnish. However, hän has, of course, been part of the language since the beginning of spoken Finnish.

    Over the centuries, the meaning of the word hän has shifted. Before the 19th century, the pronoun was even more inclusive than it is now, since it was also used, among its other meanings, when talking about animals. As the project of creating a standardised, written form of Finnish began, the word received a new, more specific role: hän became the pronoun that distinguishes humans from animals.

  • Finland uses the word hän as a symbol for equality in Finnish society. We use it as a tool for talking about a complex, multifaceted subject.

    It is true that Finnish is not unique in terms of having a gender-neutral pronoun. According to a study that covers around 400 spoken languages, the majority of those languages – as much as 67% – are like Finnish in this sense. Gender-neutral pronouns are typical of Finno-Ugric languages as well as Sino-Tibetan, Altaic and Bantu languages.

    However, Indo-European languages, such as English and Spanish, typically have gendered pronouns.

  • No. Languages are full of gendered, covert meanings, and no word can guarantee an inclusive society. Despite the lack of grammatical or natural gender, the category of gender is expressed in many ways, and so is inequality between genders; the Finnish language is no exception.

    For example, many professional titles are gendered in Finnish. In 1990, Statistics Finland published a directory of titles, and almost 400 of these titles ended in “-man” (-mies in Finnish), such as “fireman” (palomies).

    It has even been suggested that the gender-neutral pronoun works against gender equality by rendering women invisible in public discourse. In languages with natural gender, such as English, it is possible to come up with alternatives to sexist expressions. For instance, “s/he” simultaneously denotes males and females. This increases the linguistic visibility of women.

    Finnish linguist Mila Engelberg, PhD, is the author of a 2018 book whose Finnish title translates to “Men and Female People – Sexism in the Finnish Language and its Dismantling.” She writes: “What is more difficult is to recognise and dismantle the gendered, covert meanings of words, or to give up idioms suggesting that all humans are men. Dismantling linguistic sexism still requires both analysis and concrete action.”

    Nonetheless, the power of an inclusive personal pronoun should not be trivialised. Speaking in an inclusive manner is easy in Finnish, since there are no grammatical genders, and the personal pronoun hän refers to women, men and non-binary people alike.

  • We do not claim that Finland is a perfect country in terms of equality. We recognise that discrimination based on, for example, gender, race, ethnicity and disability has been brought to light by women and minorities in Finland.

    For example, various interest groups have called attention to breaches in the rights of transgender, Roma and Sámi people, and to the difficulties that people with disabilities face, for example, in finding employment in Finland. Nor is racism unknown in Finland, unfortunately.

    Although there are 93 women in the 200-seat Finnish Parliament, women are still a minority in leadership positions in listed companies, media and politics. There are structural differences between pay levels in industries dominated by one gender: on average, salaries are higher in industries dominated by men, and men make more money than women in Finland. Moreover, violence against women continues to be a critical issue.

    Tangible progress is being made in all of these issues, but they deserve continual attention and require work towards improvement.