Oddly Enough

Finnish minister says men should do more at home

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Stefan Wallin has a message for men -- do more housework, help with the children and spend more time at home.

“Equality starts at home,” Wallin, Finland’s minister for culture and sports, told Reuters on Tuesday in an interview on the sidelines of an annual gathering of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

Most countries, if they even have a gender equality department at a government ministry, have put a woman in charge. But Wallin, whose portfolios include that responsibility, said he hoped a time would come when no one would ask if any position - at home or the office - was right for a man or woman.

“Take more responsibility for things at home,” was Wallin’s message to men with families.

The benefits of this go beyond the simple creation of an egalitarian relationship enabling women to free themselves from the traditional role of mother and housewife.

“The more the fathers take responsibility for things at home, the less divorces you have,” he said. “There’s a direct correlation. It is, of course, also about respecting each other and trying to make life easier for each other.”

Governments and employers must also ensure that men and women have an equal chance to spend time at home when children are born. He is pushing a Finnish plan that he calls “six plus six plus six,” under which mothers and fathers would get six months of maternity and paternity leave each and another six months to divide among themselves.

It is based on a model in Iceland, where mothers and fathers get three months each and another three to divide.

Editing by Patricia Zengerle