Chadia El Meouchi, Global Board Co-Chair, celebrates Prime Minister Sanna Marin as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin is inspiring to me. Coming from the Middle East, where our leaders are generally old and male, Sanna is a beacon of light. At just 34 years-old, Sanna is changing what leadership looks like on the world stage, becoming the world’s youngest head of state and the youngest Finnish prime minister in history. But beyond making history in her role, Sanna is also helping to uplift other women. In her home country, Sanna’s coalition government she oversees comprises a parliament that is 45.5% female, including five women leaders, many of whom are also in their 30s.
Equality Now first came to know Sanna not long after she became Prime Minister. In 2019, we were awarded the second International Gender Equality Prize by the government of Finland. We were deeply honored by this recognition, and our team members excitedly traveled to Finland that December to accept the award from Finland’s Minister of Nordic Cooperation and Equality. During that same trip, our Global Executive Director, Yasmeen Hassan, was introduced to Finland’s new, history-making Prime Minister over dinner.
Many things came together to make the historic milestones of Sanna’s tenure possible—not least her talents and those of her government’s ministers. But these opportunities were also a result of Finland’s deep commitment to gender equality for much of modern history. In 1906, Finland became the first country in the world to grant women full political rights to vote and to run for office. While no country can claim to be perfect, this sustained dedication to equality has given way to a nation that ranks first in the world for sustainable development and is underpinned by a strong rule of law.
Just a few months after accepting the International Gender Equality Prize, Equality Now would again cross paths with Sanna for a discussion on gender equality and women’s rights—just days before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Few could have predicted how much the world would change in the coming weeks and months or the challenges it would present to leaders and governments around the globe. Under Sanna’s leadership, Finland has recorded some of the lowest death rates in the world.
Sanna has shown she understands the big picture, an essential quality for effective leadership. As a young woman in her 30s, Sanna brings an invaluable perspective to the halls of power and to the global stage. She is decisive and action-oriented. She has vowed she wants to “live like a person her age” and “shake up” her country’s highest office, and it is a pleasure watching her realize this.
In August 2022, Sanna made headlines around the world when a video of her dancing during a night out was leaked to the press. The backlash prompted support from women across the globe, who came together to call out the double standard to which women in power are held. Across social media, women posted pictures of themselves along with the hashtag #SolidarityWithSanna. The campaign went viral, garnering over 100,000 views on TikTok alone. Imagine if every young person and every male leader was subjected to such scrutiny after a night with their friends!
Every time I think of Sanna, I’m inspired by a global future with her and other leaders like her, at the helm. I think of my part of the world that is so behind in empowering women to be at the helm and cannot help but wonder about the opportunities we are missing to make this world a different and better place if we had more women, particularly young women like Sanna, in positions of power in government. I continue to dream of growing closer to a world where every young woman and girl can fulfill her fullest potential, and women leaders like Sanna are the fuel, the energy, the magic dust that envelops and sustains these dreams for women across the world and makes them a reality. May Sanna continue to dance hard and shine bright.