A city of equality

Published on 25.9.2020

NITIN Sood is proud of the brave steps Helsinki is taking towards creating a more equitable and open-minded capital city environment.  

“Equality is the city’s core value. The latest example is Helsinki’s Action Plan for Non-Discrimination, which comprehensively promotes human rights by addressing things like service accessibility and language use,” he says.  

The city has also spearheaded anonymous recruitment to encourage diverse municipal working environments, and employee training to make the city’s workers more aware of their implicit biases.  

“Our goal is for all of the city’s work communities, some 37,000 employees, to attend the training by the end of 2021. To me, this shows Helsinki’s ambition in this area,” he says. 

Sood, who has worked as the city’s non-discrimination officer for two years, says that each of these initiatives stems from Helsinki’s strategy to be the world’s most functional city.  

“We want all Helsinki residents, regardless of their background, to feel as if the city is here for them and they have a place here.” 

FINLAND has two laws, the Non-Discrimination Act and the Gender Equality Act, that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, age, origin, language, disability and several other attributes. 

“Referring to children of foreign-born parents as immigrants, even though they were born in Finland, is an example of an unconscious prejudice. Understanding our preconceived notions and gut reactions requires a lot of self-reflection. It is a continuous development process,” Sood says. 

In early September, the City of Helsinki was a main sponsor of Helsinki Pride, a yearly event for members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Among the many live and virtual events that were planned, Sood helped the city host its first-ever ‘Rainbow resident’s evening’, where participants could ask questions of the city’s mayors. 

Sood says human rights issues have been his calling ever since he was a young child. He admits his background has doubtless played a part in this, as his parents are from India and he identifies as a gay man.  

“Part of my work is also to address specific incidents of discrimination in Helsinki. I encourage people who have encountered this kind of treatment to report it via the city’s feedback channels or contact me directly.”