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Eeva Ahtisaari

Eeva Irmeli Ahtisaari
Born June 18, 1936, Varkaus

Bachelor of Arts 1962, Master of Arts 1988 (history), University of Helsinki

First lady 1994–2000
Project interviewing veteran Members of Parliament 1990–1991
A year in Namibia (observing the free elections) 1989–1990
Spouse of the UN Special Representative for Namibia 1977–1989
Spouse of the Finnish Ambassador to Tanzania 1974–1977
Secretary of the Espoo Local Heritage Association 1968–1974
Posts as a substitute history teacher 1959–1968

University of Helsinki Alumnus of the Year 1996
Honorary PhD in Educational Science, University of Joensuu, 2004

Photo: Ari Aalto
Writen by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by Matthew Billington

“You can live like that too”

Over the years, Eeva Ahtisaari has also come to know Africa. At the end of the 1960s she travelled with her husband to Tanzania and later to Namibia.

It was a challenge to work in a representative role and live in a strange culture. Eeva Ahtisaari nevertheless stresses that it develops one’s creativity and broad-mindedness.

– In such a situation you just have to accept that it is possible to live that way too

While in Namibia, she was, through her own efforts, a role model for Namibian women.

– There was also a UN delegation there with lots of women. We functioned as female role models in Namibia. I was in an ideal position, as I was unafraid of whites and I knew many educated Namibian women who had returned from exile.

Although Africa still has many problems, including internal strife, progress has been made.

– I visited Namibia with Martti at the beginning of 2015. There had just been parliamentary elections, and the result was an equal number of male and female MPs. Namibia has developed tremendously as a result of peace, but these matters are not reported.

Her own experiences have led Mrs Ahtisaari to hope that people can engage in the current debate on immigration and other cultures with understanding and a willingness to learn about the other culture.

– The lifestyles of Finns are also quite diverse if you compare, for example, single people and families, or Eastern and Western Finland. In my opinion, a multicultural society is more interesting. Ideas can be more easily exchanged. Of course it is more difficult when there are many different cultures, but I bet that the American economy has succeeded in part just because of its multicultural base.

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