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Climate Change Affecting Gender Equality in the Arctic

Climate change and growing industries have changed people’s lives in the Nordic and Russian Arctic. What happens to the gender equality when traditional subsistence methods are phased out? This is the focus of a new project involving researchers across the region.

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The northern parts of the Nordic region are changing rapidly. Traditional livelihoods such as reindeer herding, hunting and handicraft are decreasing in importance and many inhabitants are instead drawn to the growing mining industry. Life has fundamentally changed in many ways, says Päivi Naskali, professor at the University of Lapland and leader of the project titled A Gender based approach to livelihood change in the Nordic Arctic.

Why this project?
‘We want to bring attention to gender equality and the changing gender order in the Nordic Arctic and Northwest Russia. We want to facilitate dialogue and strengthen the cooperation between researchers at different universities, but also between researchers and actors working with gender equality issues in the region.’

In a gender equality perspective, what are the consequences of the changes in the Nordic Arctic?
‘Many people are hoping that the new industries will encourage young people to stay in the region. However, since most of the new jobs appeal more to men, many women are choosing to move away. In the long term, this may reduce the vitality of the communities and increase the share of older inhabitants. We need more research in this area. Towards the end of the project we will hopefully be able to give some recommendations to local decision-makers. They need to focus on creating educational opportunities and jobs that appeal to young women.’

Päivi Naskali. Photo: Arto Liiti
 Päivi Naskali. Photo: Arto Liiti

What are your plans for the project?
‘Researchers are going to interview people who live in the region and work in different sectors, such as reindeer herding, mining and home services. The results will be discussed at a number of workshops and at a final seminar in September 2014. The intention is for this initiative to form a basis for a future, more extensive, research project. We’re hoping that we, through our meetings, will be able to set the direction for such a project.’

Why is it important to address these issues in a Nordic perspective?
‘Gender equality is generally not considered to be an important topic, especially in Finnish Lapland and Northwest Russia. It is important to learn from each other and share experiences. It is also important that we gain more knowledge about the Sami community and the relevance of the changes in terms of gender equality. Traditional livelihoods such as reindeer herding, fishing and handicraft are closely linked to the Sami identity. The effects of mining on the Sami communities and their gender systems need to be studied more.’


This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

Updated 11 February 2021