Gender equality in Stockholm - ‘It would be hard for me to move somewhere else now’
Publish date: 22 March 2021
Samantha Govender admits she didn’t do much research before moving to Stockholm. But far from being a blunder, it’s made her journey in the city one of even greater discovery.
For one thing, Samantha wasn’t aware before she moved that gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society. The country is renowned as a global leader in this area, often coming top - or thereabouts - in various indexes ranking the world’s most gender equal countries, and nowhere is this more evident than in Stockholm.
“Everybody at the table has a voice, and your opinions are heard. Stockholm really is far ahead when it comes to the issues that women face in the world. Of course, it’s not 100% perfect, there’s always room for improvement, but in comparison to other places we are still miles ahead.”
Living in a country where gender equality has been high up on the agenda for nearly half a century has been eye opening, says Samantha. It permeates every aspect of society, from the working world to family life. Even dating norms are the result of increased gender equality, something she speculates can in part be attributed to more equal wages.
“In South Africa, there’s a big pay gap between men and women. When you go on a date, the guy will pay for everything - but only because you can’t afford to! There’s such a big difference in wages that it can be hard to live on your own. In Stockholm, you go halves on a date or take turns paying - it changes the dynamic, you know you’re equal from the beginning.”
That’s not to say that Samantha wasn’t taken aback by some of these new norms. With better equality comes a reshuffle of ‘traditional’ gender roles, which can take some getting used to.
“Men don’t hold the door open for women. But then, the longer I’ve lived here, the more I realised that it’s a case of you being just as capable as a man to open the door. And you can hold it open for anyone. You’re not a weaker person. That’s the concept here - when you’re equal, you’re capable of everything a man does. Now I appreciate it.”
‘Fiercely loyal’ female friendships
For several years now, Samantha has been the community manager of the Stockholm GGI (Girl Gone International) Facebook group. The group, which has over 6,000 members, is an active community of international womxn in Stockholm who are committed to supporting each other while living abroad.
Before becoming involved with the group, Samantha considered herself something of a tomboy. But seeing how the women in the community are so quick to come to each other’s aid has inspired in her a deeper appreciation for her gender.
“Women can be fiercely loyal to each other, often helping one another even if they don’t know each other. I see that more and more in Stockholm, especially with GGI where if a woman needs help, everyone rallies around her - whether that’s to help her find a job or somewhere to live, anything for that matter.”
This sense of shared sisterhood has really come to the fore throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Maintaining good mental health is seen as a priority in Sweden, with many resources available to people who need support. Samantha observes there is no stigma around discussing mental health issues among the women in the Stockholm GGI community, which makes it easy for the women to get advice and help. This openness is a trait of a more gender-equal society; when there is no need to conform to traditional gender roles, both men and women can seek help without shame. It’s just one of the many reasons Samantha is proud to call herself a Stockholmer.
“It would be hard for me to move somewhere else now and not have this kind of equality. I wouldn’t want to take a step back.”