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Sami-Greenlandic Project for Gender Equality

Problems with violence and addictions are often swept under the carpet. Especially in small communities where everybody knows each other. Now Sami and Greenlandic women’s organisations are joining forces to address these troubling issues in their communities.

NIKK spade symbol

The project is the first collaboration ever between Sami and Greenlandic women’s organisations.
‘It’s really exciting. We share so many experiences,’ says Gudrun Eriksen Lindi from Sami Women’s Forum.

What do you think you can learn from each other?
‘Greenland has dealt differently with the violence and addictions problems than we have. Where we’re from, these issues are still taboo. The problems are by no means unique to our communities, but since we live in small communities it’s often hard to talk about them. There’s this idea that these problems should be solved in the family, but that’s wrong.’

What will it take to break these taboos?
‘We have to talk about the problems, not least with our adolescents. We need to teach them where the limits are. We can’t tolerate that boys harass girls in school, we have to give a clear message from the beginning. Both the authorities and our communities have a responsibility. They need to disperse information and be prepared to deal with the problems. Individuals who come to them and ask for help must be taken seriously.’

Being a woman and belonging to the indigenous population, does it imply any particular challenges? 

Gudrun Eriksen. Photo: private
 Gudrun Eriksen. Photo: private

‘We have to fight for our rights both as women and as indigenous people. In our culture, women often have a special responsibility to take care of the family and to carry on traditions. That’s a rather heavy burden now when our communities are in crisis. We’re being exploited, for example through the opening of new mines. We’re fighting the mining companies at the same time as we’re fighting for our rights as women. This fight involves both the Sami parliaments and the states. One thing that makes it harder is that we don’t have access to all democratic arenas.’

In which way do you mean you’re excluded?
‘The Sami are sidelined in the Nordic work because we’re not recognised as an independent nation. We’re for example not represented in the work with the Nordic gender equality policy. Greenland gets to be part of it since they are recognised as independent, but not the Sami. I think that’s a big problem. There has got to be a way to give us some influence, too. Mankind has managed to put people on the moon, for heaven’s sake!’

What happens next in EAMI FEMI? 
‘We’re just now starting to meet via Skype, and next year we’ll meet in Oslo to talk about our themes violence and addiction. At the end of the project we’ll tell others about our work through an exhibition.’

Bård: alla färger

This text is part of the article series Nordic Gender Equality Cooperation in Practice 2014, which presents the projects granted funding through the Nordic Funding Scheme 2014. SNF-Sámi NissonForum/Sami Women’s Forum received DKK 250 000 for the EAMI FEMI project. The project is administered in cooperation with a women’s organisation in Greenland and the organisation Samiska kvinnor i Norr in Sweden. The organisations will meet at a seminar in Oslo next year. The project will conclude with an exhibition that will be presented both physically and online.
EAMI is a Sami word that means original, indigenous etc.

Updated 2 October 2020