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Cablegate: Finland: Nomination for 2009 Secretary's Award

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RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHHE #0489 3011504
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271504Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4619
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HELSINKI 000489

SIPDIS

G/IWI FOR ANDREA BOTTNER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PREL KPAO PHUM FI
SUBJECT: FINLAND: NOMINATION FOR 2009 SECRETARY'S AWARD
FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN OF COURAGE

REF: STATE 99729

1. (U) Embassy Helsinki submits the following nomination for
the 2009 Secretary's Award for International Women of Courage:

Full legal name of nominee: Miranda Vuolasranta

Job title/association:
I. Executive Director/Fintiko Romano Forum ry (FRF)
National Roma Forum of Finland
II. Secretary General/Advisory Board on Romani Affairs
(Finnish Government) since 1998
III. Vice-Chair/European Roma Forum, Council of Europe
IV. Roma & Travellers Special Advisor/ Council of Europe

Date of birth: March 15, 1959
Country of birth: Finland
Citizenship: Finnish
Address: Makelankatu 58-60 A, FI-00510 Helsinki, Finland
Telephone: 358-44-33-77-102
Email: miranda.vuolasranta@romanifoorumi.fi
Passport: 17007176

2. (U) Justification for the award: Miranda Vuolasranta
takes an activist and leadership role in Roma issues and in
minority-related domestic policy issues in Finland; she is
also a leader in Roma pan-European issues at a time when the
OSCE platform contains a tenet on Roma tolerance (Finland is
Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE for 2008).

Roma comprise 0.19 per cent of the Finnish population
numbering about 10,000. They are a National Minority of
Finland and in 1995, they were guaranteed the right to retain
and develop their own language and culture by an amendment to
the 1919 constitution. Roma population and statistics are
only estimates because ethnic origin is protected under
Finnish privacy law. The biggest challenges to Roma in
Finland are discrimination in housing, access to restaurants,
education, and employment.

Vuolasranta was born in Suolahti, Finland. She moved to
Sweden to complete vocational training and worked there as a
teacher for both Roma and Swedish languages. She returned to
Finland in the 1980's. Vuolasranta proposed to the city of
Helsinki that Roma language should be taught to the Roma
children at the elementary school level. After some
negotiations, teaching in Roma language started in 1989 and
Vuolasranta was hired as a teacher. She created the first
ABC book in Roma language for the Finnish public schools in
1995.

In 2001, Vuolasranta became more politically active and was
elected to the Helsinki city housing board. She was a
candidate for Parliament in 2006, but wasn't elected. No Roma
have been members of parliament in Finland. In 2002, the
Finnish League of Human Rights recognized Vuolasranta for her
long-standing concrete work to improve human rights and
equality. Vuolasranta was the first ever Roma employee of
the Council of Europe when she started work in its Roma,
Gypsies and Travelers Division in October 2002.

Vuolasranta is committed to bringing the Roma voice into any
decisions made about the Roma future in Finland and in Europe
and expresses concern at all levels that the Roma be included
in work done by governments toward their integration. One of
her current concerns is the ethnic fingerprinting of Roma in
Europe. Her work is not easy; she wears the traditional
costume, a decision Roma girls make around age fifteen as a
symbol of purity, and stands out when she goes to meetings
and travels with delegations. The costume sometimes results
in discriminatory remarks, but she is firm in her beliefs.
She travels often, sometimes at the request of the Finnish
government, to the Council of Europe and to other forums
where she can champion Roma in their integration into
European society and in protecting their human rights. She
is a frequent speaker at these forums and events.

The mission strategic plan (MSP) for Helsinki contains two
priorities that intersect with Vuolasranta's work: Enhancing
Regional Stability, which means supporting the OSCE goal of
Roma tolerance, and Enhancing Mutual Understanding, which
means supporting Roma work toward integration in Finland and
in Europe. Vuolasranta, in post's opinion, embraces tasks in
Finland and around Europe that exemplify those goals.

3. (U) Post confirms that Miranda Vuolasranta agreed to this
nomination.

BUTLER

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