Katariina will be Mayor of Helsinki for one day. Photo: Plan International

18-year-old Katariina to be Mayor of Helsinki for a day

The City of Helsinki joins Plan International’s Girls Takeover campaign, in which girls step into the shoes of political, social and economic leaders on the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, a day of observance declared by the UN. 

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori will step aside for a day on 11 October, to be replaced by 18-year-old Katariina Pekkonen. The one-day takeover is part of Plan International’s campaign, which seeks to draw the attention of the world to the discrimination met by girls, and also to the enormous potential possessed by girls. 

Girls Takeover is now organized in Finland for the third time. Last year the girls of Plan International Children’s Board and a young Ugandan activist of Plan International successfully took over nine leadership positions. Globally, girls took over the offices of 2,000 leaders in 70 countries. 

This year’s campaign seeks to highlight especially the impact of climate change on girls in developing countries. Therefore the offices to be taken over comprise enterprises and organizations that can influence climate change mitigation with their actions. 

In addition to the Helsinki Mayor’s office, the offices to be taken over by girls comprise those of the following persons in leadership positions: Member of European Parliament Eero Heinäluoma, Jukka Leskelä, Managing Director of Finnish Energy, Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko, CEO of Marimekko, Olli Luukkainen, President of Trade Union of Education in Finland, Sara Mella, Nordea’s Head of Personal Banking, Tapio Sadeoja, Senior Editor-in-Chief of Ilta-Sanomat, Emma Koivula, Editor-in-Chief of Anna magazine, and Saku Sipola, President and CEO of SRV Group Plc. In addition, a Cambodian activist of Plan International, Hory Toth, will take over the office of Krista Mikkonen, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.  

Mayor Vapaavuori says, “One of the major issues of justice in our times is how to secure the rights of girls and young women. The takeover is in a good position to wake up people to think about the position and opportunities of girls in Finland and elsewhere in the world. The City of Helsinki continuously promotes gender equality with concrete action, for example, by fixing salaries and wages and through an equality project and plan. The International Day of the Girl Child is a grand way to celebrate our progress, but it also reminds us all that systematic work to promote equality has to be continued, also here in Finland and in Helsinki.” 

When girls are included in decision-making, the future is better for all of us

The consequences of climate change will have negative impacts especially on girls in the poorest countries of the world. Climate change will weaken the nutrition, water supply and hygiene of girls, it will increase school dropout and child marriage rates, and it will increasingly expose girls to exploitation. 

However, girls in developing countries play significant roles in the climate solution. When girls are given opportunities for education and to participate in decision-making, their abilities and skills become part of the solution to the climate crisis. When girls can make decisions, the future is better for all of us. 

“Climate change threatens to endanger the advances that we have already achieved in the rights of girls. Finland and the Finns must shoulder their fair share in the mitigation of climate change, and we can set an example to other nations with our action,” says Ossi Heinänen, CEO of Plan International Finland. 

The purpose of the campaign is to give girls an opportunity genuinely and significantly to affect the decisions made during the day. For example, Ronja Holopainen stepped into the office of the President and CEO of Kesko Corporation last year, and as a result the corporation included the promotion and monitoring of gender equality in its responsibility criteria. This means that the corporation monitors tangibly, annually and in all parts of the world how gender equality progresses and develops in their partnering enterprises and procurement channels. 

“Climate change mitigation is an important theme for me. We’re not talking about climate and nature alone but about human rights. Equality and good preconditions for life despite one’s background have always been important for me, and I feel that those are the exact things that I can impact with Girls Takeover,” says Katariina, who will be replacing the Mayor of Helsinki.