When it comes to Gender Equality,Sweden, along with other Scandinavian countries , always seems to be one step ahead of the rest of the world. In April 2015, the Swedish Academy’s SOAL dictionary was updated to include “hen” a gender-neutral term. The SOAL which was established in 1785, aims to expand the Swedish language with changing times. “Hen” as a pronoun can be used in two different scenarios. First, where the gender of the person is irrelevant and second, to refer to an inter-gender person. The term has made its way into regular use in Sweden over the years and now schools are introducing the term as an all-encompassing term for pre-school kids. This is just one of various measures that Sweden has taken to ensure gender neutrality which can be a possible reason for Sweden to consistently figure in the top 5 in Global Gender Gap Reports by the World Economic Forum.
In December 2015, the Swedish Women’s Lobby announced that every 16 year old in the country will get a copy of “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Originally a Ted Talk, which has now received more than 2 million views on Youtube, the Swedish translation of the essay inspired by the talk was released in Swedish in the same month. Adichie is a Nigerian author whose best known work “Half of a Yellow Sun” won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. In her Ted Talk she talks about discovering feminism and the negative connotations that come with it as a young girl in Nigeria. “My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better,” says Adichie. “All of us, women and men, must do better. Clara Berglund, chair of the Swedish Women’s Lobby feels that “This is the book that I wish all of my male classmates would have read when I was 16. It is a gift to all second-grade high-school students, but it is also a gift to ourselves and future generations.” (Source: The Guardian)
In the Ted Talk Adichie describes how she came about the term Feminism when an elder male cousin used it for her pejoratively. Her experience resonates with all young girls, especially in countries like India, who are completely unaware of what Feminism means or stands for. The education system does nothing to help. When they begin to notice how their gender greatly shapes their lived experience and are disturbed by it, even then they are hesitant of calling themselves Feminists because of its negative connotations especially in the eyes of the men of the society. Eventually, they are left to their own resources, which is mostly the internet, to figure out that they are not alone and that they are not wrong in feeling a general sense of dissatisfaction with the way the society operates. In this context, Sweden’s steps are laudable because this particular text is possibly the easiest and simplest way to introduce young minds to the essential concept of how gender affects the ways in which they interact with the world. More importantly, it helps young girls easily comprehend the realities they face instead of battling with them in solitary confusion, which can only mean better preparation to face them and later change them.
Watch the Ted Talk here : We Should All Be Feminists