TO EAT IS A GIFT FROM GOD

 The youngster from Missouri is a keen footballerThe Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:13 that the ability to eat and drink with joy and satisfaction is everyone’s gift from God. So people should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their work this is God’s gift to man. Moreover be grateful and thankful to God and enjoy this gift from God by sharing your food with family and friends. So when a teenager was unable to swallow food he became ill not able to teenager was left fighting for his life after his esophagus was torn by a ham and cheese sandwich he ate. Alec Hebblethwaite, 14, spent 106 days in hospital diagnosed with chronic immune system disease eosinophilic esophagitis. Alec Hebblethwaite, 14, in the hospital after terrifying injury. The schoolboy’s mum Kasey Hunter, 35, first noticed something was out of ordinary last April when he ate a cracker during football practice and threw up blood. She took him to the ER where medics said he had scratched his esophagus and told him to stick to soft foods to give it the chance to heal. But the following month, Kasey took Alec to Walmart between football games to grab a snack and he choked on a ham and cheese sandwich. He was rushed to hospital with chest pain and doctors discovered his esophagus was RIPPED but when they tried to fix it with surgery found the wound had become infected. He later ate a sandwich after playing football which ripped his throatHe ended up spending the summer in intensive care, fighting deadly sepsis and having several operations where doctors warned his mom he might not make it. In November seven months after Alec’s first trip to the ER – doctors determined his extreme reaction caused by eosinophilic esophagitis. The rare condition causes white blood cells to build up in lining of tube connecting the mouth and stomach, which can lead to tearing and choking. Alec has to stick to soft foods and cut out rough foods and bread is believed to trigger previous flare-up because it can expand and cause irritation. Alec Hebblethwaite, 14, in hospital following the terrifying injuryHe later ate a sandwich after playing football which ripped his throat. His mum first noticed something wrong when he started coughing up blood after eating a crackerThe youngster from Missouri is a keen footballer. The Mum-of-three Kasey, of Kaiser, Missouri, said: “They said that if we had waited 12 more hours before taking him to the hospital he would have died. “We thought it was just chest pain he was complaining about but the doctors did a swallow study and found out there was a hole. “The doctors said they had never seen it in a kid before. It was very scary. “To stand there and look at your kid and there is nothing you can do for them… You just want to take it all away but you’re not able to. “I had no idea that this could happen. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that crackers and sandwiches would be able to do this.” He medical condition worsened after it was discovered he was suffering from an infectionHis medical condition worsened after it was discovered he was suffering from an infection After choking on sandwich on May 21, Alec, who lives with Kasey and her husband, construction worker Matthew, 36, was admitted to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. There doctors tried to perform surgery to repair esophagus but were forced to delay it after opening his chest to find suffering from infection. Alec was transferred to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was admitted to Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He had a chest tube and drain inserted to help get rid of infection and later surgery to remove his gallbladder infected. Alec, discharged on September 3 and was diagnosed with the rare condition until two months later. He said: “At first I didn’t know anything was wrong at all I just felt like a bit of sandwich stuck in my throat. “But after I found it really hard to get up and my throat hurt. I was in a lot of pain. “I don’t remember most of my time in hospital but there was a time when I wasn’t able to walk, which was very scary. “I knew things like this could happen but I didn’t ever think it would happen to me.” Alec still goes to hospital every few weeks for dilation, where a balloon is inserted into the esophagus to stretch it, to make it easier for him to breathe. Help family with medical and travel costs donate: YouCaring site: https://www.youcaring.com/alechebblethwaite-830977


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EARLY ADOLESCENT KIDS

kids-circleAdolescence starts earlier in modern generations than previous ones lasting twice as long as it did in the 1950s. So children are hitting puberty earlier than ever before said Psychology professor Laurence Steinberg who explained why to BrainwavesAdolescence is a period of life between starting puberty and becoming stable, independent adults. This time is being extended because some children begin puberty earlier.Kids-Diverse-1

Adolescence is three times as long as it was in the 19th Century and it’s twice as long as in the 1950s.
Professor Laurence Steinberg

According to Professor Steinberg, in the western world adolescence runs from age 10 or to about age 25. Professor Steinberg attributed this phenomenon of lengthening of adolescence to several surprising factors as follows:youth-world-header-large

Obesity & Man-made Chemicals

The first and most important is obesity. The kids who are fatter go through puberty earlier than the leaner kids he said. Man-Made Chemicals. There are other factors as well. One has to do with the exposure of children to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the man-made environment. The chemicals are not just in food, they’re in cosmetics, they’re in plastics, they’re in pesticides they’re ubiquitous.” “When people are exposed to these endocrine disrupters it alters their hormonal development and many chemicals lead to earlier onset puberty mostly in girls.”hot

More SunLight exposure

The third factor that’s been discovered fairly recently has to do with exposure to sunlight.” It turns out that kids who grow up near the equator go through puberty earlier than kids who grow up near the north or south pole and that’s because, when you grow up near the equator, you have more exposure to sunlight over the course of childhood years.” While it may not be of too much concern to parents in northern Europe, recent research suggests a final factor which applies to many children here.

“Scientists discovered recently the light emanating from tablets or smartphones or computer screens can affect onset of puberty by disrupting brain’s melatonin system. Kids who spend more and more time in front of these screens especially in front of the blue light emitted by the devices probably contributed to earlier puberty as well. Light from the phones impacts brains of kids and adults.“World-Population-889x591.jpg

Adolescent Brainwaves

Brainwaves of the adolescent brain as Pennie Latin examines is relatively a young field of teenage neurology. It has revealed lack of frontal cortex ability to understand risk and consequences. And so although adolescent children may hit puberty earlier, they may not be able to handle the harsh realities of the trauma of war years, distress, rations, famine, lack of tough physical life forced upon previous generations. They worked in factories, chimney sweepers, railway as tracks as children making them more mature. They develop faster on growth spurt but face challenges of the modern generation.

GIRL’S PUBERTY & PERIODS

maximum-win-when-puberty-goes-right_o_4965805Girls of puberty age face discrimination in society so says the news again. Some banned from crossing river because of monthly periods. Interestingly, God put period in girls for reproductive cycle to be fruitful, multiply to replenish earth according to Bible. Functions of human body are God’s creation so people need proper education to learn to understand these female conditions. Modern times show deataile scientific knowledge on menstruation. So schoolchildren learn biology so know scientific explanation of periods. Period means a girl’s womb is prepared for child-birth each month. The girl’s body waits through ovulation cycle when egg is released to receive the seed/s to become pregnant and to have children. But since girls are too young to bear children and still in education they are not ready to give birth yet. So each month the egg from the fallopian tube is released waiting for conception in the womb. Since no pregnancy takes place, egg and womb linings are shed as the ‘period’ in preparation for repeat of this cycle each month. After birth a womb is still busy continuing monthly cycle until menopause when period stop. A natural of fertility cycle of girls is being used as religious discrimination against young innocent girls. The tradition of outhouse for periods exists in cultures all over the world to keep girls in a special hut.

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The concept of sacred ground of homes and rivers is used to put girls in special huts for exclusively the periods. Elderly women train girls in personal hygiene and after periods they go back to family compounds. The idea is found in Bible too so women are considered “unclean” from sacred spaces during periods. And must have purification baths and must abstain from intimacy during periods. In some places menstrual cups, pads or special cloth is used by women during periods. For those not going through the periods they are allowed to cook, clean and do chores. Those in periods cannot enter the family compounds until after periods. In places where a girl is safe, warm and nearby home period is time of “break and rest” for the girls. Those isolated in places exposed to elements is unsafe, cold, some are at risk from the elements and animals roaming around. Girl’s education is interrupted so do not go to school. If they to ask teachers to be excused from classroom to change in school toilet, i can be embarrassing to tell male teachers such details by girls. So it was concluded by some societies to exclude them during periods. Education is not continued and so school work lags behind when in the hut. No lessons or homework given for missed classes and some it is assumed must not touch other things to ‘contaminate’ it. This why girls in periods are banned from the homes and school still an issue in some places. Other issues of sanitation or washing of cloth or disposing of used pads in home is of concern too. Often a sight of blood is considered sacred to must not touch or taint home or certain holy places. It is necessary to educate people periods are like any normal health experience. Talking-To-Boys-About-Puberty-Periods-And-Girls

Homeschooling during period if this is possible can be set up by the schools to ensure education of these girls are not compromised. Homework can be given but this idea is not popular so girls are affected. The elders making laws need to understand value of a girl’s education often misconstrued as waste of time or money. They say, after all girl’s just end up in kitchen so less education thought as easy way to control girls. This issue has several underlying causes needing to be addressed for the human rights of girls to have periods without attack on their education. In addition the societies can learn from others in other parts of the world on how a girls’ periods does not interrupt education. To some extent social stigma is attached to periods so a natural mood swings and mood changes or pain responded to as ‘oh it’s that time again.’ On other occasions, even if girl is not in their periods is assumed they are always daily going through the periodic cycle. Girls not allowed to touch certain objects in extreme cases even the Bible considered too Holy if in period. Periods-in-Developing-Countries-Header-1Period matters need to be dealt with very carefully in harmony with views of community which associated, interprets lack of rain or good harvests as results of human actions and behaviours. The people who are aware notice changes in the girls during periods so may feel it is inappropriate to socialize in that state. It is awkward for some men unaware of real meaning of a girl’s monthly cycles. Whatever methods girls choose or are available to that society, the well-being of girls must be ensured. Organisations can support by donating their essential personal hygiene items too expensive to buy in some places. The disposal must be done discreetly so the used pads not dragged by dogs from local damp sites. These needs are beyond young girls to meet by own efforts. So discrimination against girls must be reconsidered to stop ‘gods’ harrassing girls to realise God  ALMIGHTY created girls in HIS IMAGE to reproduce on earth.

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Psalm 115:5 says gods have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes but not see so are just man-made idols in Habakkuk 2:18, 1 Kings 18 :26. God ALMIGHTY in the heavens demands veneration by people. Psalm 135:16 says gods have mouths but cannot speak, eyes but not see. A born again Christian believer in Christ is to practice WORSHIP of God only. Christ Shed His precious Blood to cleanse all people including girls in their periods. Believers cannot partake in any idolatry of gods or heathen practice if they claim to be saved. In the 21 century education available to bring an awareness and the relevant knowledge. This issue must be resolved properly to stop picking on the girls going through periods. It is not the fault of girls to put up with natural cycle tolerated monthly with no choice or any control over natural period issues.2-infographic-education God’s plans and purpose for girls is for birth of mankind so must be celebrated not punish girls for being in periods. In addition, a community’s actions are also known and seen by God who will hold decision makers accountable. So read Revelations 19:15 about God’s dealings with leaders in society. Isaiah 44:18 says gods know nothing, understand nothing their eyes do not see. They do not know or understand anything. God shuts their eyes so they cannot see; and so have no knowledge. Those who carry about their idols or pray to gods are like them. The Bible in Psalm 115:5 says those who are praying or praising gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, stone do not know Jehovah God. Children’s rights activists hit out at traditional leaders banning girls from crossing river while they are menstruating from going to school._99558170_b239af05-8ed2-4257-8153-64b56e998a53Yet Krobo girls in Somanya Ghana are dressed and taken to the riverside for Dipo bath rites. Any girl who dresses in this way is identified as ‘dipo-yo.’ On the Saturday morning the girls have ritual bath (aya-pa) at the riverside. The girl’s calabash contain sponge so proceeds to Srendor (stream) for spiritual bath. The chief priest is told when girl has period for the first time and grouped together with other girls. They are checked to be ensure they are virgins. After that they have a ritual bath in the river and are dressed beautifully in expensive kente, beads on head and around body. The point here is the Dipo god seems to not mind puberty girls in river they literally are bathed in. Later paraded in town to celebrate them by the whole town. This great source of tourism and hospitality attracts people from all over the world. Books are written about this practice. kroboIMG_20180112_103548But in the central region Ghana girls have been banned from crossing the River Ofin by traditional leaders, who say they are enforcing what they call a “directive” from a river-god. Children have to cross the river to get to school in Kyekyewere, in Upper Denkyira East district in the Central Region of Ghana. This means girls cannot attend school while they are on their periods. It is not on period days: a second order from the river gods bans all girls from crossing river on Tuesdays.  Remember Jehovah created rivers and oceans so all are free to cross it. Unicef’s menstrual hygiene ambassador Shamima Muslim Alhassan told BBC directive violates girl’s right to education and freedom of movement.

It seems the gods are really powerful aren’t they? Sometimes I think that we need to ask for some form of accountability from these gods who continue to bar a lot of things from happening, to account for how they have used the tremendous power that we have given them.”

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PeriodTalk-Cloud-600River Ofin serves as boundary between Ashanti and Central Region. Central Regional Minister Kwamena Duncan given indications to coordinate with Ashanti regional minister to find solution. In Madagascar some females are told not to wash during periods and in Nepal some women are forced to sleep in huts away from the rest of the family. Girls in other cultures face this problem since education is becoming compulsory in many countries. Many cultures have myths and taboos around menstruation globally. This must be demystified and debunked to intervene on behalf of young girls to benefit from education. Kweggir Aggrey said if you educate a boy or man you educate an individual but if you educate a girl or woman, YOU EDUCATE A NATION. And behind every successful man is woman so men must listen to women at home, community or in corporate boardrooms for the greater good of society and girls. Stop harrassing young girls all over the world and study reproduction biology. Elijah told people to follow God only not any idols in the Mount Carmel contest by calling fire down to burn sacrifice of Yahweh the real true God. God proved to the people HE has greater power than the idols. Again Gideon was also told to cut down idol shrine grove to build new altar for God and sacrifice cow to God on the new altar. Almighty God does not share His Glory with idols so demands a complete total loyalty because HE IS A JEALOUS GOD. He wants to be the only one people worship not a bit of God and a bit of idols. So school girls must attend school daily in their period, given pads, personal hygiene kit, discreet changing rooms facilities and water to wash with.  

 

SPARE THE ROD SPOIL CHILD

Smacking (actors)Smacking ban goes to public consultation. Plans to outlaw beating, slapping, kicking, smacking, spanking, whipping children in Wales are going out to a three-month consultation. The ministers said removing the defence of reasonable punishment would make it clear smacking is no longer acceptable. Charities including the NSPCC said this would bring Wales in line with dozens of other countries. But campaigners against the law fear it could criminalise ordinary parents. Minister for Children and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies, said: “As a parent of three boys myself, I know being a parent can sometimes be a challenging experience. “Our knowledge of what children need to grow and thrive has developed considerably over the last 20 years. We now know that physical punishment can have negative long-term impacts on a child’s life chances and we also know it is an ineffective punishment.”

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Discipline is meted out by using alternative methods like, “grounding” punishment which means the child stays at home so cannot meet up with friends to go to cinema, party, or sleep over. The child’s privileges like toys, games, computers, phones taken away or asked to stay alone isolated in their bedroom. Others sit in a corner alone for 5 minute to 15 minutes within sight of the adult to stay there based on their age  This helps calm a child down and diffuses tension but the child enjoys TV in bedroom or favourite toys, phone, computer, are taken away for a few days or months depending on what the child did. This happens often so some parents feel it is better than physically hitting them with a stick. Some do not have toys or own bedroom so parents find other ways like asking them to do chores they do not like to do to teach them a lesson. In other extreme cases the child may pay for items deliberately damaged in anger with pocket-money or mow the garden and lawn.

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Scotland became the first part of the UK to confirm plans to outlaw smacking children last year. Now ministers in Wales want parents to choose “positive and more effective methods.”Some people think carrots and sticks are choices that makes a difference depending on preference. The “rule of the thumb laws” made by Parliament allowed husband’s to beat their wives with a stick the size of their thumb. God help the woman whose husband has the biggest thumb, you will not want to rub the wrong way. The proposed law would not involve creating a new offence but would instead remove the defence to the existing offences of assault and battery. So, any adult looking after a child would no longer be able to use physical or corporal punishment against them. Physical punishment has already been outlawed in schools and childcare facilities but Mr Irranca-Davies said it was time “to ensure it is no longer acceptable anywhere.”

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The Welsh Government is now allowed to legislate in areas of parental discipline, under the new Wales Act. The consultation runs until 2 April. The Bible says correct the child in love and not in anger because God Corrects those HE LOVES. So explain to the child you are not in a bad mood or hate them. Discipline must be done in context and effective against their behaviour. Mixed messages from parents does not clearly teach them why it is wrong to do something being punished and educate them on the effects of their action on their reputation, others and their peers and society in general. Safely nip the bad behaviour in the bud before it grows out of hand and becomes toxic and destructive. A lot of adults missed out on proper discipline as God said train the child so when they grow they will not depart from it. Children need to understand that discipline corrects and challenges bad behaviour so is not a negative cruel wicked vitriol. God tell parents in Bible not to provoke their children to anger so are to raise children to have consideration for others.семейное-отношение-14317792

A recent TV documentary experimented the carrot and stick approach to see which was more effective. One group was harsh, relentless, no fun, almost military training style of elite soldiers. The other group observed a laissez faire approach, liberal, praising them, mingling appropriately. Both groups performed almost the same without any extra head start or advantage over the other. In extreme cases where a child’s life or others are at risk, a meaningful discipline method is age appropriate and does not ‘hurt’ physically or kill them as happens sometimes. The stress and despair of the parents must never be put upon or projected on to the children. Parents with any psychological problems must seek therapy and not vent their anger on the children by harsh punishment in anger. In extreme cases children’s hands are cut off as punishment for working too slowly or taking and eating food without first asking permission. Sometimes the health of children must be taken into account for suitable punishment. To stop lawlessness, recklessness of society children need discipline important for their future self-discipline to live peacefully with others in community. 1.1994526-1

In Ghana the High Court ruled against smacking so children write apology letters. The Ho Polytechnic Basic School has instituted the writing of apology letters to replace corporal punishment in the school. Pupils now write apology letters, after a written report on the misdemeanor. So what does it mean to “spare the rod and spoil the child? This phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child means modern-day methods imply that if parents refuse to discipline unruly child the child will grow accustomed too set in ways too late to their change bad behaviour. Proverbs 13:24 says whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who corrects them loves them. This is not a licence for aggression and abuse of children for the slightest reason. Children lack FRONTAL CORTEX so do not fully understand life. So take time to make simple easy to understand visual images with rules to REMIND children. This can prevent forgetting rules and children will comply if the know the reasons why they are disciplined. Patents must set good examples to children.

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Afterwards, explain again why disciplined, ask for apology from the child, hug and tell child you love them as is done in the UK.  Children mimic and copy adults so some behaviours reflect on the environment and the actions of the adults who need to set better examples and not pick on children mirroring their behaviour. Parent child bonding must not be destroyed by aggressive discipline or lack of discipline. The Bible says those who love their children care enough to discipline them. Whoever spares the rod hates child, but loves child if diligent to discipline child. A lot of brat, rude, bad behaviour can be traced to children left to own devices who grow up as Dennis the menace to society and untouchable majesty the child doted on by parents who think their beloved children do no wrong. This sensitive matter means each side is equally passionate about their approach. The danger is social workers called because of discipline the law ‘criminalise’ parents for training children for their own good. Yet some grow up and freely hit by batons for undealt with childhood issues. Caring-Adult_woman-high-five-boy_web Bible says the if a child listens and is disciplined that child lives long and it is well with that child. So discipline is not to inflict punishment for cruelty but to train a child into an upstanding valuable member of society. The purpose of discipline is to teach a child to understand the human rules and laws of society to fit in as an adult. Therefore unbred child will find the world harder than the child carefully trained from home to be self- aware and have self discipline and self respect. The world is full of untrained adults who act like children and have to nannied and apprenticed when they should be leaders helping other. The chaos in society and communities is because some have festered unruly children never disciplined because of saying ” it hurts the parent too much to inflict pain” on a child. A trust worthy child is trained to fear God and respect fellow human beings and follow the golden rule. Vilifying parents for any form of discipline sends the wrong message to children who will grow up to make similar decisions in future.

DEPRESSED MUMS SINGING

Mum singing to babySinging speeds up’ recovery from post-natal depression. Singing helps mothers recover from post-natal or post partum depression more quickly study suggests. Researchers found women who took part in group singing sessions with their babies experienced much faster improvement in their symptoms than those who did not. The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, looked at 134 mothers with post-natal depression. Early recovery is seen to be crucial to limit effects on mother and baby. Post-natal depression is estimated to affect one in eight new mothers. And previous studies have indicated singing can help improve the mental health of older people and those with dementia, but this is the first controlled study of its effect on post-natal depression. The women were placed into three groups:Mother and baby music group
  • one took part in group singing
  • another took part in in creative play sessions
  • a third group received their usual care, which could include family support, antidepressants or mindfulness

The singing workshops saw the mothers learning lullabies and songs from around the world with their babies and creating new songs together about motherhood. And those with moderate to severe symptoms of post-natal depression reported a much faster improvement than mothers in the usual care and play groups. All the groups improved over the 10 weeks, but in the first six weeks, singing group already reported an average 35% decrease in depressive symptoms. The Principal investigator Dr Rosie Perkins said the study, although small, was significant because it was important to tackle the symptoms as quickly as possible. “Post-natal depression is debilitating for the mothers and their families. As research indicates some women think accessible singing with their baby helps speed up recovery at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives,” she said. The lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt at University College London, said singing is another useful therapy to offer women. babies with musical instrumentsMany mothers have concerns about taking depression medication whilst breast-feeding and uptake of psychological therapies with new mothers is relatively low,” she said. “These results are really exciting as suggests something as simple as referring mothers to this community activities could support their recovery.” Dr Trudi Seneviratne, who chairs the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Faculty, said: “It’s exciting to hear about the growing evidence base for novel psychosocial interventions like singing to facilitate a more rapid recovery for women with post-natal depression. “I look forward to more work in this area in the future, as it will be enjoyed by both mothers and their babies.”Since the study, Breathe Arts Health Research has started running singing workshops in partnership with the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust for women with post-natal depression across the south London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. Community and socialising helps overcome isolation and loneliness of new mothers. The feel good factor of singing with the babies is definitely a win- win situation lifting the mood and going out of the home helps to lift their spirit too. Isolated mothers can organise own singing sessions with friends in communities and their babies benefit too from a calm, happy, relaxed mother. If child raising is recognised or considered as a valid hardwork and to celebrate mothers and carers the world will become a better and safer place. So families must be prioritised and to help mother’s like Finland pays both parents to raise their children. Depression is caused by loneliness, pressure, stress of modern living without extended family support and children become depressed too. So it is good news to help mother’s and also to improve motherhood as an honourable collaboration with God’s idea to multiply to replenish the earth.

THE DAD’S TIME WITH KIDS

A dad cheers his daughter on the sports field in Helsinki, Finland. ‘This is not about the mother’s right or the father’s right – but the child’s right to spend time with both parents.’Finland Fathers are paid paternity leave for universal daycare. Finland is closing the gender gap so the rest of the world can learn from them. To Americans and Britons, Nordic countries represent the paradise of gender equality and family harmony, where the legions of happy fathers do push prams through streets, relaxed mothers enjoy lengthy a paid maternity leaves, and well-nourished children in chunky sweaters glow from free healthcare. It is against that backdrop as one statistic on Finland nation of 5.5 million, stands out. According to recent OECD report, it is the only country in the developed world where fathers spend more time with school-aged children than mothers, to the tune of eight minutes a day.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/2017/12/the-mother-load/embed.html

 Global Gender Gap report rates Finland the second most equal country in the world in 2016, and Economist recently rated it the third best country to be a working mother. How did Finland get there? And what can the rest of us learn from this small Nordic nation might accelerate the battle for gender equity in other places? It’s a story of collective action and political will, of a strong tradition of social democracy and an accommodating tax system. But it also boils down to a key difference in how Finland frames the conversation: it’s not about what’s good for adults it’s about what’s good for the children. So,

“This is a question of gender equality, but more a question of the rights of the child,” says Annika Saarikko, Finland’s minister of family affairs and social services, one of six female ministers out of a cabinet of eleven. “This is not about the mother’s right or the father’s right – but the child’s right to spend time with both parents.” Finland believes fathers play a crucial role in child development. The government gives fathers 9 weeks of paternity leave, during which they are paid 70% of their salary. And to encourage fathers to take advantage of the benefit, it recently launched a new campaign – with flyers showing a burly construction worker joyfully pushing a pram called “It’s Daddy Time!”Annika Saarikko, Finland’s minister of family affairs and social services: ‘The early years are vital.’

“We want fathers to take more of the shared parental leave available,” says Saarikko. “We are quite sure if we look at the research the connection between the baby and father is really important the early years are vital and we believe in investing in that.”Annika Saarikko, Finland’s minister of family affairs and social services said: ‘The early years are vital.’ While she advocates for fathers, Saarikko is a fitting example of how mothers in Finland are to a degree liberated from the constraints of motherhood by the country’s supportive policies. She is 33 and has a three-year-old child in full-time public daycare. Her husband works full-time. “You can be a young woman and minister here,” she says. “My situation is not abnormal. In Finland it is normal to combine work and family  it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.”

Finland’s current standing reflects a long legacy of women’s advancement. The country was second in the world to give women the right to vote, and the first in 1906 to give them full political rights. Today, 42% of parliamentarians are women, whereas in the US, women hold just  19.6% of seats in Congress. “Finland was a poor country where women worked alongside men, and we all had to work together after the war to pay off our debt to the Russians,” says Paulina Ahokas, director of Tampere Hall, the largest concert and convention center in the Nordic countries. “But women have been involved in decision-making for a long time we believe that leads to the best decisions.”

Social support from start

The Finnish state strives to provide both mothers and fathers with meaningful social support before their child is even born and perhaps not coincidentally the parents Guardian spoke with in Finland seemed significantly less stressed than their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic. When parents have a child in Finland, they do nit have to worry about a huge medical bill. A pregnant woman with no complications expects to be seen 11 to 15 times before giving birth for free, and the cost of having a baby is nominal. Meanwhile, in the US, a delivery alone costs average $10,000, while a caesarean delivery costs over $15,000, according to the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP).

On top of that, for the past 80 years, the Finnish state has also gifted parents with a “baby box”, filled with newborn essentials including a sleeping bag, mattress, outdoor gear, toiletries and playsuits – all in gender neutral colors, of course. While families can opt to receive €140 instead, 95% of first-timers take the goodies, as they are worth much more. The baby box has been credited with helping Finland achieve one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world – it saw only 1.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015, compared with states’ strikingly high rate of 5.82 – not because of the bed itself, but because pregnant women must have a checkup before the end of their fourth month of pregnancy to receive it. “It’s the contact that’s important, not the box,” says Anita Haataja, who works for the Finnish social agency Kela. Inside Aleksi daycare centre in Helsinki, Finland.Inside the Aleksi day care centre in Helsinki, Finland.

Once the baby is born, Finland gives the mothers about four months of the paid maternity leave and fathers a little more than two months of paid leave. On top of all that, couples can share an additional five-plus months of paid parental leave between them. While most dads take the first three weeks of leave offered to them, only about half take the full two months and only a small percentage beyond that numbers the “Daddy Time” campaign is hoping to boost. Even after the parental leave period ends, one parent has the right to stay home, and get “paid” €450 a month, and return to the same job until child is three years old. Granted, some critics argue this stipend encourages women to stay away from workplace for too long, thus harming their job prospects. For Sami Sulin, who works in the back office of a bank, the benefit offered a welcome opportunity to spend time with his daughter. He stayed at home for a full 10 months from the time she was 10 months old, and he says an increasing number of his friends are doing the same. “No one was negative about it,” reports the 35-year-old. “I think it is just more socially acceptable now. There is a recognition that fathers need to participate in family life.”

Naturally Good To Help

Most parents, including mothers, do eventually go back to work and when they do, the state provides universal daycare. At its most expensive, service costs €290 a month by comparison, in the US, full-time childcare costs 85% of a family’s median rent in some places and can be more expensive than sending the child to college. In London, the average is around £650 a month. Oh, and in Finland, someone else will take care of all the details. “I guess the big difference is it is not stressful at all,” says sales manager Tuomas Aspiala, 40. “Someone else organizes everything.” When a local nursery didn’t have any space available for his two children, the city of Helsinki organised a nanny share to look after them until room became available. “The situation at the daycare centre is really fantastic. It’s really close, the people who look after the children are wonderful,” he says. “We really don’t feel guilty about leaving them there at all.” The Aleksi daycare centre in Helsinki. The Aleksi daycare centre in Helsinki.

Indeed, Finland’s early years care is arguably the best in the world, credited with helping country land consistently high in Pisa education rankings when children go to elementary school at the age of seven. “In Finland, schooling isn’t something people stress about at all,” says Noora Ahmed-Moshe, 37, who had her second daughter in Finland two months ago, after having her first while living in London. Finnish companies’ attitudes tend to be progressive, too. Here, most people start the day around 8am and commonly wrap up between 4.pm and 5.pm. All of which adds up to a culture where parents are better able to divvy up the work of parenting.

For Petri and Kirsi Louhelainen, a tech startup entrepreneur and the CTO of a tech firm respectively, they both see the division of time and labor in the home as important for their sons. “When at home so really involved that’s normal,” says Petri, 41. “Dads participate in their kids’ life and kids have a lot of hobbies, in my experience it’s often the dad who takes them.” Kirsi, 38, can’t personally attest to the finding that Finnish dads spend more time with school-age kids than moms and it’s true women still spend around 71 more minutes a day than men with their preschoolers she appreciates how relatively egalitarian her country is compared with others in the western world. “Petri takes care of all kids’ clothes. I find it too stressful,” she says. “But I cook more. It just feels natural and good to share the load.”

Deeprooted social Justice

None of this comes cheap, of course. Taxes account for 44% of Finland’s GDP, compared with about 25% in the US. Income taxincludes payments to the town or city, the state, a church tax, and a public broadcasting tax. Someone earning $1.2m a year would pay as much as 51.5% to the state. “Americans will say we pay a lot of tax, and it’s true, we do. I pay a lot, but I don’t lose any sleep over it,” says Aspiala, the sales manager. “Of course I would like to pay less tax, I would like the public sector to be less heavy but I’m comfortable with it. I know that I am a net giver rather than net receiver, but if my tax goes to help someone worse off, then OK. Finns have a pretty deep-rooted idea of social democracy.” Like many families in Finland, Petri and Kirsi Louhelainen balance raising their two children. Like many families in Finland, Petri and Kirsi Louhelainen balance raising their two children.

So does Finland agree with American perception it’s a utopian paradise? Not yet. Minister Saarikko acknowledges that a deeply ingrained gender-related problem remain, particularly in remote areas. The gender pay gap is at 16% to 18%, depending on which measure is used, which is not dissimilar to the 17% to 20% in the US. Most professions are dominated by one gender. And women make up only 23% of board members in listed companies.  A main barrier faced is illusion of gender equality,” she says. “Many people think gender equality has already been achieved in Finland.” But the government is actively working to improve figures. This year, the Finnish government launched an International Gender Equality Prize as part of the celebrations marking 100 years of independence it will give €150,000 to a person or organization “with advanced gender equality in a globally significant way” to donate to the cause of its choice. “I don’t know of any other country that would make this kind of prize it’s major statement in a celebratory year, that makes me proud,” says Ahokas, the convention center director who is also the chair of the prize. So where does the country go from here? The next big push is for the greater gender balance may just come from fathers, predicts Katja Lahti, 43, who writes a popular family blog Project Mama. “It feels like a real millennial movement of fathers who are asking for more, who want their voice,” she says. “It’s like they want to have it all.”