Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we have the huge privilege of featuring President Tarja Halonen.

We are especially thankful that President Halonen and her team made precious time from her busy schedule to do this interview with us! 🙂

Tarja Halonen: The First Female President of Finland.

President Tarja Halonen served two terms as the president of Finland from 2000-2012. A vocal champion of social equality and minority rights, she is a tremendous inspiration and role model to many female leaders worldwide.

In 2009, Forbes named President Halonen as one of the top 100 most powerful women in the world.

Aside to her political career, President Halonen served extensively in trade unions and various non-governmental organisations. She also chaired the main Finnish gay rights organisation SETA from 1980-1981 and was an early proponent of gay rights.

An interesting fun-fact for our Singaporean readers: President Halonen made significant contributions towards the excellent diplomatic ties between Singapore and Finland.

In February 2008, President Halonen visited Singapore with high-level Finnish business and state delegations, 13 years after any Finnish president went to Singapore on a state visit.

In October 2010, President Halonen extended a state invitation to our Singaporean President Nathan, where many fruitful discussions were made and concluded. The 2010 presidential state visit to Finland was a clear affirmation of the start of many stronger bilateral collaborations and goodwill between the two nations.

The 3 things President Tarja Halonen considers as “Finnish”.

Firstly, President Tarja Halonen regards the sauna as “Finnish”, affectionately saying that the sauna is “very dear to us.”


Next, she felt that the concept of “sisu” is also particularly Finnish, for it is “the spirit in which we raise our kids.”

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Last but not least, she considers the northern nature to be particularly Finnish, too.

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The 3 things about Finland that President Halonen is particularly appreciative of.

Equality, education and solidarity are three things that President Halonen hold particularly close to heart when it comes to Finland.

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President Halonen once made a speech in 2000 at the opening of the Women of Learning exhibition in Helsinki which highlighted these three values.

We present the following extract from that speech:

“We are a model country where gender equality is concerned…Under-representation of women and other inequality among researchers is a problem that will not solve itself as women acquire competence….The Finland of the 21st century can thrive only if women of learning – in common with their male counterparts – are guaranteed the opportunity to use their creative potential to the full.”

In the book “Te naiset, te naiset: Sitaatteja vain naisilta” (2006) by Laine Jarkko and Jung Irmeli, President Halonen also mentioned that–

Naisille annetaan helposti vaikeimmat tehtävät”;

which translates to:

“Women receive easily the most difficult assignments.”

As a distinguished lady who served two terms as the President of Finland, President Halonen truly walks the talk!

The one birthday wish President Halonen has for Finland 100.

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For Finland 100 in 2017, President Halonen wishes that:

“Finland would be strong in implementing and promoting sustainable development both at home and internationally.”

Don’t we all love President Halonen already for her big hearted-ness? ♡ ♡ ♡ 

Some personal reflections.

I first met President Halonen at an UN-Economic conference in 2014, and will always remember how approachable and knowledgable she is.

President Halonen really has no airs at all and is generous in sharing her wisdom and experiences with the audience. We even took this picture where she locked her arms into mine! :DDD /fangirls


Foreigners who have met President Halonen spoke especially fondly of her. I personally don’t think that “warm” is a word you will use to describe many presidents or ambassadors in the world.

Lilian Neo, the chair of the Singaporean Association in Finland for instance, once told me that she is particularly inspired by how sincere and modest President Halonen is.

It’s truly a great privilege to have President Halonen on our series and we are very grateful. We hoped you have enjoyed this feature!~♡

Credits| Feature photo: Tarja Halonen. / Other photos: Unsplash.