Pioneer Against Prejudice Awards for Advocates of Equality

Jarkko Mikkonen
The Red Cross Helsinki and Uusimaa District gave Iranian-born Golalah Lotfollah their Pioneer Against Prejudice Award. Lotfollah’s unique, unprejudiced and positive attitude has contributed to overcoming prejudiced attitudes. Lotfollah became well-known through the reality TV programme Suomen Tulli.
Image: Jarkko Mikkonen

During the Week Against Racism (17–23 March 2014), the Finnish Red Cross handed out its annual Pioneer Against Prejudice Awards (Ennakkoluuloton edelläkävijä in Finnish) to companies, communities and people who have contributed to creating equality in Finland.

The awards, given out by each of the FRC District organisations, are intended to recognise those who work to ensure everyone within Finnish society is treated equally. A key requirement of nominees is that they have promoted a positive attitude and fact-based debate.

In the FRC Åland Islands District the Award was given to the Emmaus Åland group.

The Red Cross Helsinki and Uusimaa District granted their Pioneer Against Prejudice Award to Iranian-born Golalah Lotfollah. She works as a Customs officer in Helsinki and has become a familiar face on the television reality show, Suomen Tulli (Customs Finland). With her individual, unprejudiced and positive attitude she is able to combat prejudiced attitudes. Golalah Lotfollah, or Lola, shows her professional skills and provides greater variation to the face of Finnish officialdom. Lotfollah came to Finland as a child and is an excellent role model for young people. A woman of Kurdish origin, Lotfollah has also gained the unconditional appreciation of her colleagues in a traditionally male field.

The FRC Häme District gave its Award to the K-market Kattimatti shop in Tampere in recognition of its unprejudiced and trailblazing approach to the successful and continuous employment of immigrants. Recruiting immigrants and native Finns to do the same kind of work exemplifies how the shop determinedly sees and treats all people equally. Through their everyday actions and work, K-market Kattimatti contributes to a more diverse and therefore richer society. These open-minded shopkeepers, Sari and Kari Laurila, are exemplary pioneers of equality.

The Red Cross Southwest Finland District granted their award to a school, the Mansikka-Ahon koulu in Kouvola. The school has an excellent atmosphere and everyone on the staff takes their work against racism very seriously. Children of immigrants and any children on the autistic spectrum can happily attend the school, as all types of bullying or teasing are dealt with immediately. The principal Pekka Lipiäinen, in particular, works hard to foster an atmosphere of equality and appreciation of difference at the school.

The FRC Lapland District has given their award to healthcare worker Alli Tulkki who is a pioneer of anti-racism work in the Lapland District. When the first immigrants began arriving in Rovaniemi and the rest of Lapland, particularly refugees in the 1980s and 1990s, Alli Tulkki was among the first volunteers to provide support for immigrants and to work to reduce prejudice. Due to her age and health issues, Tulkki is no longer actively involved in integration efforts, but in the Lapland District they think it is high time she received recognition for her work.

The Red Cross Western Finland District has given their award to Arja Seppälä, director of the Gloria multicultural centre. Seppälä works for equality and to combat racism and prejudice in many ways. She does a great deal to support the integration of immigrants. She is also a key figure behind the multicultural centre, which has grown into being a vital resource in the area. Among other things, Gloria provides a venue where multicultural groups can arrange their own activities.

The FRC Oulu District has granted the Pioneer Against Prejudice Award to the Municipality of Siikajoki, which recently agreed to take in quota refugees, a clear demonstration of its courage and solidarity with others. Thanks to smooth cooperation with the Municipality, the FRC Oulu District reception centre has been able to operate within its borders since 2009.

In 2014, the Red Cross Savo-Karjala District gave its Pioneer Against Prejudice Award to two pioneers. Founded in 2012 and run by the ViaDia Joensuu ry association, Rantakylän Lähiötalo in Joensuu is a low-threshold meeting place for families with children. During its brief existence the Lähiötalo meeting place has managed to reach, among others: Somali, Afghan and Russian families of Rantakylä. Lähiötalo offers apprenticeships to both Finns and immigrants. In an exemplary way it contributes to equality and diversity within the local community. The meeting place has improved the attitude of local Finns and helps immigrants with a refugee background to become integrated within society.

Savo-Karjala District granted its second award to healthcare worker Leila Savolainen who has created an atmosphere of trustat the Kuopio Social Services and Healthcare Centre. Immigrant families are truly listened to and assisted through the various stages of their integration process. Over a period of 21 years, Leila Savolainen has helped hundreds of refugee families. Her professional expertise is highly valued throughout Finland, and she has participated in trips to select quota refugees. Key to Leila Savolainen’s work is its coherence, efficacy and imagination, and of course her sense of humour. These qualities enable her to promote equality and diversity and to contribute to the integration of some extremely vulnerable refugees.

The FRC Satakunta District granted the Pioneer Against Prejudice Award to the Town of Rauma, which has long, and in particular, worked with occupational immigration. Rauma has invested in an immigration strategy and in programmes of integration and internationalisation. Increasing numbers of international inhabitants of Rauma have been smoothly integrated into the town’s municipal services, such as day-care, schools and adult education. In February 2014, Rauma also agreed to take in refugees from Syria.

The Red Cross Varsinais-Suomi District granted their Pioneer Against Prejudice Award to the Turun kristillinen opisto school. The recognition is based on the school’s exemplary work in teaching immigrants Finnish and in helping them to integrate. The school actively teaches Finnish to all those who need to learn the language, but in particular it helps asylum seekers and refugees. Approximately half of all asylum seekers and refugees in the area choose to attend Turun kristillinen opisto for their Finnish classes.