Last year, I wrote a post comparing the US with Scandinavia, and while the statistics I found impressed me, Sweden continues to make the case for being one of the most amazing countries in the world. First, Sweden has made a considerable contribution to international relations with its feminist foreign policy. Second, anybody in the world can now call a random Swede and talk about pretty much anything. Even though the latter is lighthearted in nature, both are two examples of Sweden’s success at promoting its values.
Feminist Foreign Policy
FM Margot Wallström heads up Sweden’s feminist foreign policy, explained as the following:
Equality between women and men is a fundamental aim of Swedish foreign policy. Ensuring that women and girls can enjoy their fundamental human rights is both an obligation within the framework of our international commitments, and a prerequisite for reaching Sweden’s broader foreign policy goals on peace, and security and sustainable development. (Government Offices of Sweden)
While FM Wallström has been leading the way for two years now, it was a lecture she gave recently in Brussels that really moved me. During her speech she argued that we need to create more opportunities for women to be involved in decision-making processes, including in national parliaments and in diplomatic negotiations. She also proposed that a feminist foreign can help improve the lives of women and girls around the world. Anybody familiar with the Sustainable Development Goals (and previous Millennium Development Goals), knows that gender equality (SDG 5) is crucial for eradicating poverty and making the world a better place.
What made the speech even more memorable was that five of my brightest female students joined me to watch it. It was an absolute joy to talk (and tweet) with them about FM Wallström’s remarks; in fact, it was probably one of my favorite moments in my fourteen-year teaching career. At one point I tweeted a picture of them watching the speech, and much to our surprise, the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU used it as the header for their Storify of the lecture. My students were so inspired by her (as was I) that they decided to plan and host a workshop at our school on empowering women and girls. Surely this as a sign that Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is making a difference and resonates with a global audience.
You can watchFM Wallström’s March 14 speech and subsequent Q+A in the video below.
The Swedish Number
The Swedish Tourist Association launched the Swedish Number on April 6, as a way to promote Sweden around the world. Anybody can dial the number and be connected to a random Swede to talk about anything; at one point, even PM Stefan Löfven answered phone calls.
I wanted to find out what all the buzz was about, so I decided to call the number myself. I got connected to Emil (sp?) in Stockholm. He was at work and said that he and his officemate had already taken 3-4 calls since the Swedish Number started. I asked him why he signed up, and he said that it was a cool concept. He also liked the way it gave Swedes to reach out to others. I asked if he had heard of Wisconsin, which he had but he wasn’t quite sure where we’re located. I also wanted to find out what he thought of FM Wallström and Sweden’s feminist foreign policy. He said that he fully supports it, as do most of the Swedes he knows. Before I ended our conversation, I asked what he wanted my students and other Americans to know about Sweden. He responded by talking about Sweden’s strong record on the environment and encouraged my students to make eco-friendly decisions. All in all, it was a great five minutes.
Here’s the video the Swedish Tourist Association put out to promote the Swedish Number.
Sweden is doing an amazing job using its soft power to promote its values. I’m not saying Sweden is perfect, but I definitely understand why people want to move there.
If you’ve called the Swedish Number, or you’re a Swedish phone ambassador, I would love to hear about your experience.
Finally, what are your thoughts on Sweden’s feminist foreign policy? Is it a new approach that other countries should emulate?
Thanks for reading.