I stand in the front of a beautiful and solid stone house which is built almost 90 years ago. The red granite stone foundation and firm walls gave once support and protection for young women who moved to the city alone. Now the same house offers a discrimination-free zone and a safe space for hotel and restaurant customers.
Declaring a Discrimination-free zone means opposition to discrimination, addressing the problem if one exists, and recognising equality between human beings. It’s also a signal of the fact that this place and this organization welcomes everyone irrespective of gender, age, ethnic background, religion or belief, opinion, state of health, disability or sexual orientation.
In Finland discrimination is prohibited on the basis of the Constitution, the Act on Equality between Women and Men, the Criminal Code, and several individual special acts. Despite these discrimination occurs. As the main reasons are seen people’s prejudices, attitudes and sheer thoughtlessness. Therefore the Discrimination-free zone with its signs is still topical campaign. The permanent positive change takes place by practicing and repeating it over and over again. Therefore we refuse to accept hate speech.
Since its inception the YWCA’s have created a safe space for women, and people living in difficult life situations. Even today the hotel business and housing facilities are one of the well-known activities in the YWCA movement. In the future YWCA Finland will develop a model of safe spaces where in addition to physical spaces attention is drawn to social media, practices and attitudes of employees and volunteers.
Non-discrimination requires a change of attitude for everyone.