I was born in Finland, which might be considered as “winning the lottery” in terms of human rights and equality. Being born here means free education, free choice concerning field of studies, free health care and social support together with freedom of expression and equal societal rights for everybody.

When I grew up, I started gradually to realise that what for me was self-evident wasn’t so in most parts of the world and hadn’t been in Finland either for a long time. A hundred years ago Finland was a non-industrialised country suffering the consequences of violent civil war and famine. Rapid development during the previous century changed everything and has transformed Finland into a politically and socially stable welfare country. If we look for explanations for this huge change, one thing rises especially high: education. Education is the key factor to explain economical and societal wellbeing and this is especially true for women — the education of women is the crucial factor for any country looking to increase successfully the wellbeing of its people.

I believe strongly that all people should have same rights and opportunities and I also believe that the world can be changed in this respect. Finland shows that it can be done. However, since nothing can be taken for granted, work continues all the time. What looks today like a stable achievement can be lost tomorrow if we do not continually work towards our goals.

I have been involved in many activities aimed at developing the world in a more sustainable and equal direction. I am a member of my local Zonta-club(1), a board member of Pharmacists without Borders in Finland and of the Generation Green project(2) in Helsinki University Pharmacy Faculty. All these organisations and projects have a global view and goal but they also work at the grassroots level, which makes their work more concrete. By taking small steps we can reach the goal of global equality.

In my own pharmacy, we educate women who have not taken care of their education in a due time. Through a combination of work and theoretical studies supported by employment officials, we can give women the possibility to be educated to a level whereby they can become pharmacy technicians. I think that every woman should have a formal education to have a stronger position in the workforce.

We also have Pharmabridge(3), and Pharmacists Without Borders exchanges pharmacists and pharmacy students in pharmacies to help develop good pharmacy practice programmes in their own countries. This is a great way to learn more about the pharmacy practice and I recommend that every pharmacy should participate in this kind of work. In general, participating in education is rewarding in all its forms. Having young students doing their practice, educating people to a professional level and even having pupils from local schools working for a few days are good ways to help people build careers.

At FIP, my goal is to advance globally professional pharmacy practice and regulation concerning medicines. I think that substandard medicines, poor accessibility and high prices are the main global problems in the way of reaching equity in pharmaceutical care. Organisations like FIP can build collaboration at the professional level without the hindrance of political or religious conflicts, which can make collaboration otherwise impossible. Through FIP we can reach all pharmacists in the world and be strong in our message about people’s equal rights to good quality care.

One can ask — why just women, why not everybody? Of course the ultimate goal is to reach equality for everybody, but the reality is that it is women who suffer from inequality, not men. Women and children are normally also the first to suffer when societies are in a conflict situation. By creating stability and by working for better regulation everyone benefits. Developing better conditions for women in no way conflicts with the rights of men. In fact, it has been shown that it stabilises societies and helps families to improve their situation if women are educated and can make decisions about their own lives. Evidently, we still need to focus on women’s problems and rights – men have already taken theirs. Changes take time and we have to be patient, but the goal of equal rights for everyone is possible to reach.

So let’s work together and let our small initiatives grow into big, sustainable achievements.

(1) Zonta International is an international organisation to empower women worldwide through service and advocacy

(2) The Generation Green project is committed to fully integrate environmental aspects in higher education in pharmacy

(3) Pharmabridge® is a voluntary initiative aimed at strengthening pharmacy services and pharmacy education in low-income and emerging countries

About the author:

Eeva Teräsalmi is FIP vice president and owner of Seven Brothers Pharmacy