Finland wants to encourage equality and give the world a word – their all-inclusive personal pronoun, hän

Like many languages, Finnish is full of loanwords – words that were, at some point, borrowed from other languages and incorporated into Finnish. Finland would now like to give the rest of the world a word, to encourage international discussion about equality and inclusivity, and to support everyone who is working to promote them. The word is: hän.

Equality forms a core value for Finland and its people, and the best symbol of Finnish equality is a personal pronoun from the Finnish language: hän. The third-person singular pronoun hänis neutral in terms of gender and social status, so it represents equal opportunity. It is “she” and “he,” all at once, and it has always existed in the Finnish language. To promote inclusivity and equality, Finland wants to introduce this word – and the thinking behind it – to the rest of the world.

Finland is launching a campaign about equality, on June 3, in English, French, German, Spanish and Swedish. Finland is thanking these languages for their loanwords and spreading the word about equality. Outdoor advertising is going up in London, Brussels and Berlin, supplementing the campaign website and video material. Finnish people can participate and thank their friends using an app available on the campaign site.

Finland honours equality work around the world

In tandem with the equality campaign, Finland’s embassies around the world are selecting local individuals and groups for official recognition. The goal is to thank them for promoting equality and inclusivity in various sectors of society. Among the first 16 recipients of the recognition are individuals and groups from Singapore, Croatia, Namibia, Norway, Indonesia and Japan. They are active in a range of fields, including education, minority rights and gender equality. The full list of the first recipients and more info about why they were selected are available on the campaign website(Link to another website.)

“Equality is one of the great strengths of Finnish society and Finnish culture,” says Laura Kamras of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. “It is so important to us that we would like to bring everyone into the conversation.” 

“Finland is not a perfect society, of course, and maintaining and improving equality requires continuous work. Nor is a language ever perfect; despite its use of a gender-neutral pronoun, the Finnish language still contains words and expressions that carry gendered meanings. Our campaign seeks to emphasize the significance of equality and its power to shape society. Promoting equality is a high priority in Finland’s foreign policy.” 

“By running a campaign that includes giving recognition to individuals and groups, we aim to highlight work being done around the world to promote equality. We invite everyone to participate in the discussion.”