Tarja Halonen, is the first female head of state and eleventh president of Republic of Finland. Widely recognised as a global humanitarian, the trained attorney turned politician, apart from
making her mark in FinlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s political scene, has always sought after workersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ welfare and more importantly, the rights of women. TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE takes a look at her activities.
Tarja Halonen is the eleventh president of the Republic of Finland, and FinlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first female head of state. She acceded to office on March 1, 2000, and was re-elected 2006.
Tarja Halonen was born in Helsinki on Christmas Eve in 1943. She graduated from the University of Helsinki in 1968 and has a Master of Law degree. Her professional career started in the national Union of Finnish Students, where she worked as the Social Affairs Secretary between 1969 and 1970. She started as a lawyer in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions in 1970 and held this position throughout her political career.
Halonen joined the Social Democratic party in 1971. Her political career began in 1974 when she was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.
She was elected to the Parliament for the first time in 1979, and after that, she was re-elected four times, until she assumed the office of the President of Finland. In the Parliament, she served as Chair of the Social Affairs Committee from 1984 to 1987, Deputy-Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee from 1991 to 1995 and Chair of the Grand Committee in 1995. A central part of Tarja HalonenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s political activity has been her five terms in the Helsinki City Council between 1977 and 1996.
Tarja Halonen has served in three cabinets and her appointments have been: Minister, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health from 1987-1990; Minister of Justice from 1990 to 1991 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2000. She was also Minister responsible for Nordic co-operation from 1989 to 91. During her time as Foreign Minister, Finland held for the first time the European Union(EU) Presidency from July to December in 1999.
She is widely recognised for her outstanding efforts as a global humanitarian. Internationally, President Halonen has remained a powerful voice for the rights of the poor in Finland, in the Nordic countries, and in the world. She always worked on behalf of welfare rights and workersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ rights while she was a member of Parliament, and then as the Minister of Social Affairs and Health. Now, as president, she has become a strong spokesperson for the rights of the poor in the Nordic countries, maintaining that while the Welfare State still has work to do, it cannot and should not be disassembled at the expense of the poor.
With a background in law and as a trained attorney, she has looked at social issues from the perspective of the law. She is most proud of her work as co-chair , with the President of Tanzania, of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. Formed by the International Labour Organisation, the Commission released its report, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A Fair Globalisation: Creating Opportunities for AllÃ¢â‚¬Â in February 2004 to the United NationsÃ¢â‚¬â€which led to passage of a resolution.
She continues to work on this topic, with her belief that globalisation has deep impact on the poor. As a president of a small country whose economy is built on companies involved in globalisation, she has worked hard to keep the rights of the poor in the global economy discourse.
Halonen has continuously worked on behalf of the rights of women. As a member of Parliament in the mid 1980Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, she worked hard for the establishment of the Department of Equality in the Finnish government. She has served as a role model for women, becoming the first female Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland (a post similar to U.S. Secretary of State) before becoming its first female president. She has understood the significance of her role as a precedent-breaker for womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rights. Under her presidency, more women have been appointed to positions of authority in Finnish government than ever before.
Tarja Halonen is married to doctor Pentti ArajÃƒÂ¤rvi and she has one daughter. She is interested in theatre and she has held several honorary positions in this sphere. Her other interests include the history of arts while painting and drawing are among her hobbies. She has also been closely involved in rhythmic competition, gymnastics and exercises regularly.