‘I have found an inclusive society where everyone’s rights are respected’

On March 8th 2019, International Women’s Day, Leyla Gasimova participated in an event hosted by the Halland County Administrative Board, Halmstad University and an association of political parties and women's associations by making a speech and showcasing a virtual photo and Contemporary Art Exhibition

'I have found an inclusive society where everyone’s rights are respected'
Photo: Leyla Gasimova on International Women’s Day

It was an honour for me as an SI Scholarship holder at Halmstad University to make a speech on International Women’s Day and showcase an exhibition presenting women’s voices from conflict zones in front of many Swedish women who firmly stand for their rights.

I am a peace-builder — a master's student in Nordic welfare at Halmstad University doing my master's in Nordic Welfare, as well as a Swedish Institute scholarship holder. I come from Azerbaijan, from a conflict zone. Although I am not a direct victim of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, I grew up among the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, refugees and internally displaced people. I have witnessed the devastating impact of armed conflicts on women and children.

By moving to Sweden and studying Nordic Welfare, I have found an inclusive society where everyone’s rights are respected and protected. 

I remember a trip with the director of the SEEP program within Halmstad University. While moving some boxes, the program director held one heavy box and when other students and I tried to help her, she didn’t let us help her, and just said ‘I am a woman and I can carry it.’ It deeply touched my heart to see a woman who has discovered her strength and is proud of being a woman.

I firmly believe that today, Swedish women should be seen as role models for other societies. The Swedish society achieved this level of human development not just by political will but also by societal will.

Photo: Leyla Gasimova holding a speech during International Women’s Day

In my exhibitions during International Women’s Day this year, I have used the art of others to emphasise the importance of respecting and protecting the rights of women who are internally displaced persons and refugees. It is imperative to enhance and strengthen the participation of women in peace processes and negotiations during ongoing violent conflicts.

The exhibition, previously shown in the European Parliament contains pictures showing people in the conflict areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, Myanmar and Kashmir from eight different photographers.

The protection of vulnerable groups should be an absolute priority in any internal displacement situation. It must be remembered that acts of displacement (for example with the Nagorno-Karabakh or Rohingya populations) violates the human rights of those affected, resulting in a loss of access to homes, lands, personal documentation, family members, and pre-existing social networks, amongst many other things.

Photo: Leyla Gasimova (left)

Unresolved conflicts should be a matter of concern for states, international bodies and NGOs. Long-lasting conflicts and wars in one part of the world, directly and indirectly, affect other parts of the globe.

Women have to play a crucial role in crisis prevention, peacemaking and peace-building as they suffer a great deal during conflicts. The number of women negotiators, witnesses and signatories to peace agreements remains astonishingly low. Without a gender perspective, peace processes and negotiations lack substance, which may jeopardise their very sustainability.

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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.