When you talk to Swedish women it becomes obvious they have a slightly different perspective than other women. This perspective is not limited to women who are Swedish per se, but also to women of other nationalities who have made Sweden their home. Over time and almost by osmosis they take on board Swedish attitudes and outlooks. This is especially true with foreign-born children who make their way through the school system.
The attitude of Swedes to equality is so persuasive and pervasive it is no surprise that ex-patriot Swedes pick up on it too. One international group the Swedish Women’s Educational Association (SWEA) is dedicated to is the largest non-profit organization promoting Sweden outside of Sweden with the goal of promoting the Swedish language and spreading Swedish culture and tradition.
Women’s education is the key
Education in Sweden has long been the prerogative of boys and girls equally. They are educated similarly and the expectations on them are the same. School is mandatory for all children until year 10. The numbers speak for themselves. 100% enrolment rates for both sexes and Sweden has already reached the International goal of having at least 40% of the population educated at a tertiary level.
Since 2015 Swedish schools have dealt with an influx of refugee children from Syrian and Afghanistan. This provides a challenge for the education system – the views of the migrants are different vis-à-vis women and equality. Education into the Swedish zeitgeist has to be at a family level as well as a school level. Regardless, the government has taken on the task, although we await the results.
It is this attitude toward education that marks Swedish culture as different
SWEA founded in 1979 (and I don’t think the date is a coincidence) runs a network 30 countries and there are more than 70 chapters spread across the globe.
But some of its key work centers around three different scholarships. The scholarships focus on Swedish Language, Literature, and Society, the Study of Intercultural Relations, and the Performing Arts. This could be the government’s equality program writ small. It is certainly no surprise that the organization is the largest group outside Sweden promoting such Swedishness
Back to the date for a moment, it was back in the 1970s Sweden implemented the tax reforms which allow it to view its citizens as individuals
There is still a long way to go
No doubt these steps forward to equality are laudable. But there is still a distance to go at home until there is true equality. More importantly, the rest of the world has a lot of work to do to catch up. The US is not even on the same continuum as Sweden. It would be understandable if there were no Swedish ex-pats. Thank goodness there are plenty of women with this mindset who have made it into other cultures. Let’s hope their influence rubs off.