Norwegian Saami policies in an equality perspective
By State Secretary Anders Eira
|| As State Secretary of Local Government and Regional Development, Anders Eira has the political responsibility for the co-ordination of the Norwegian Government’s policies pertaining to the Saami population in Norway. The other State Departments have, in their respective subject areas, responsibility for the policies also pertaining to the Saami population and minorities.
Norwaytook active part in the work to establish the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Forum will discuss issues on economic and social development, culture, education, health and human rights which concern the world’s indigenous peoples. The Norwegian Government will continue to support the work carried out in the Forum.
There is today wide agreement on indigenous issues in the Norwegian Parliament. This provides both security and predictability for the indigenous population in Norway, the Saami. The Saami society is still in a construction phase. This is why the Government has increased the total grant for Saami purposes in the later years. The Saami Parliament administers an increasingly large share of the total grant for Saami purposes, and has thus gained a more central role in Norwegian Saami policies. Of the total grant of NOK 535 million, in 2004 the Saami Parliament administers approximately NOK 227 million.
The Saami Parliament is the popularly elected body for the Saami in Norway. Regrettably, today there are only 7 women from a total of 39 elected representatives in the Saami Parliament. This constitutes a problem in relation to the objective that a popularly elected body should reflect the composition of the whole population. A balanced division of power also between women and men is a cornerstone of a democracy. Women must therefore further participate in the political work, while at the same time parties and organisations which stand for election at the parliamentary elections also must nominate women in the top positions. The Saami Parliament has, with financial support from the Government, started a campaign with the objective to gain an increase in women representation in the Saami Parliament after the parliamentary elections in 2005. Women are also under-represented in the Saami electoral register and comprise approximately 36 per cent of the register. As a consequence, the Saami Parliamentary, in co-operation with the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, has carried out an information campaign with the objective to move more people to register with the electoral register. Women were among the primary target groups for this campaign.
Through the foundation of the Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Norwegian Government has expressed a wish to increase the effort to make visible important challenges for the Saami and other indigenous peoples as part of the work with human rights. The Centre therefore has a particular responsibility with regards to collecting and distribute information about indigenous women’s rights. This year at the Centre’s annual seminar, the focus will be on indigenous women’s rights.
The Norwegian Government wishes to emphasise women’s roles and significance, also in the traditional Saami reindeer herding. It is a Government objective to ensure women’s continued participation in reindeer herding, to ensure the encouragement of occupational equality between men and women in reindeer herding, and thus arrange for increased value creation in reindeer herding. By setting aside resources for women related measures through the reindeer herding agreement in the later years, the Norwegian Government has made clear its intention to better the position of women in reindeer herding.
There is today large disparity in the level of education of Saami women and men. Many women choose higher education, whereas men largely aim for the traditional Saami trades. If a local community is to develop, there must be sustainable and adaptable trade and industry. The Government will therefore organise measures which will offer increased value creation and more varied trade and industry in the Saami local communities, possibly based in traditional Saami trade and industry, such as reindeer herding and duodji (Saami handicraft). The fact that Saami men choose a traditional trade and industry contributes towards maintaining traditional Saami knowledge. It is, however, an equal rights policy challenge that Saami men tend to reject education. The combination of higher education and insight into century-long traditions and knowledge is critical for innovation, creative thinking and value creation in the Saami society and its trade and industry. For this work, both Saami women and men will be needed.
For many indigenous peoples, the balance lies in the preservation of traditional knowledge, values and cultures, at the same time as the indigenous society and the surroundings continuously change. Many indigenous peoples find themselves in the intersection between tradition and modernity. It is all about adapting to a new world without losing sight of, or forgetting, the values of the traditional culture.