Marja Tiura
Marja Tiura

Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments





The Team




[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Marja Tiura

Political Development

1. What made you decide to go into politics?
My father is involved in politics. I have followed upon my father's career ever since I was a child. He is a chairperson of the municipal council of Kylmäkoski (MT:n home village, JK), a position he has had for the last 15 years. I have been a member of the National Coalition party for 13 years, but not very actively. It was in 1993 when I began my studies at the University of Tampere and one of my friends took me to the meeting for new members. Ever since I have been involved in party politics, but not very actively, even then. I was a member of the council of the student union at Tampere University for two years, but I did not find it very interesting. They were talking about matters, which I thought are not so relevant. However, soon after that I became more involved. First I joined the Student Organization of the National Coalition and then the Youth Organization of the party. I was the chairperson (a leader) of the Tampere Local Association of the Youth Organization of the National Coalition during the years 1996-1997.

2. Have you role models for politics? Does your involvement or policy-making have a tradition in your family?
My father was a candidate at the parliamentary elections four years ago. While observing his campaign, I decided never to go into politics. It was so repulsive. Nevertheless I ran for the candidacy four years later after I had been in local politics as a municipal secretary working for my party group in the Tampere City Council. A municipal secretary is a kind of 'politruk' who has a full-time job with a monthly salary. While working in this position, I learned a lot about municipal politics and got interested in politics in general. Before the parliamentary elections in 1999, there was a vote by the members in the district organization of the National Coalition. By this procedure, the members of the party are able to choose candidates at general elections.
My party had a problem - they did not have young candidates; nobody was willing to run for candidacy. I had similar feelings - a lot of work 'for nothing' I thought, since the possibility that you will be elected the first time was quite minimal. The other candidates had been involved in, for example, an employer's association for a long time and it was much easier for them to get their campaign financed. I did not have any networks, which later I was forced to build for the National Coalition. A couple of men from my party talked me over and I gave my consent to run for a candidacy. The male party members in question were well-known local politicians in Tampere. My mother called me then and asked me not to participate because she thought that it would be too hard and too much work for me. At that time, I had not yet graduated from the university, and I had to do my master's thesis before the elections.
Before Christmas (1998), the party district had a vote by the members and I was 8th in the line. There were more than 30 persons running for a candidacy. I was really surprised at the vote's result. I had thought that I would be 15 or 16. After such positive support, I was forced to join the game. I made my master's thesis in two weeks, days and nights. There was repair work at my apartment at that time, and I was still working as municipal secretary. Finally, I had to organize my campaign. These really were hard times for me. My employers and foremen did not make it easy for me, since some of them (members of the City Council) were my rival candidates.
I had the luck to have a nice circle of friends around me during elections. These people worked hard for me during the campaign. It was quite a non-political group, even if some of them were members of the party. Also the final election result was surprising. I got so many votes that I was third among the elected of my party in my electoral district. After that I have had enormous pressure to fulfill the expectations of my supporters.

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Party Affiliation

1. What was your motivation to join a political party?
Actually it was my parents who encouraged me to join the party. I never have thought of another option, another party... The National Coalition has changed so much from what it was before. There are different kinds of people - 'there are broad walls and the roof is high' (in the party). There are also people whose worldview is quite 'green'... So, that when I was attending panel discussions before the parliamentary elections in 1999, one of the typical questions was - 'what is your party thinking about this and this?' I replied that I don't know what the National Coalition party 'thinks about it', but I feel so and so. I have never studied party programmes or that kind of documents... the key themes of my party then would be entrepreneurship, diligence, profitableness and economy.

2. Does your party have an equal opportunities regulation?
To give a straight answer, I do not know... I have to say that we have not talked much about these things...

3. Which function/offices did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after your joining the party was that? How did you get into running for an office?
First I joined the student organization of the National Coalition and then I joined the Youth organization of the party and acted as a chairperson of the Tampere local association of the Youth Organization of the National Coalition (KOK) 1996-1997. I have not had any other positions in the party yet. I have not even striven for them, since I have thought it to be better if I first learn this job, here, in the Parliament, and that I learn how to act here in the Eduskunta. Perhaps after that, I would if I am still interested.

4. Did you have mentors within your party?
Yes, in local politics, actually I have some older gentlemen which have helped me and given me advice. We are still frequently in communication with each other. I call them and ask their opinions. I have this small circle of people to whom I phone and ask their opinions. If I am not quite sure about some issue, I want to hear what others have to say about it, what stand they would take on that special question. This makes it easier for me to make up my own mind. However, I do not have such people here in the Eduskunta, I mean from the party or from the Parliament Group of the party. I have tried to stay outside the party's inner cliques. If you would join some of those cliques you will be against the others. I have noticed that many of the new MP's from my party group have done exactly the same, stayed outside.

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Profession/ Current priorities

1. How does your profession correspond with your political work?
I have studied municipal economy, municipal policy, and regional policy at the university. Of course, I have benefited from my university degree which has been very useful here in the Parliament.

2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
I am a Master of Administrative Sciences with my major subject in municipal economy. Before that, I studied marketing in the Commercial Institute.

3. What kind of jobs have you done?
Actually I have done a lot of different things. Firstly, I was born in a farmer's house and we have more than 100 cows back home. I have worked on the fields and in a festivity service all the weekends and holidays since I was a schoolgirl. While studying at the Commercial Institute, I had a job at a shoe shop... I also worked in Stockholm, Sweden, as a nurse in the elderly home (home for the aged) for two summers. While I was studying at the university, I was working at the bank where my task was to serve the business clients. In that job I got to know a plenty of entrepreneurs and businessmen.
Then I got a job from Tampere city as an apprentice (for a short period included in the university degree) in the planning and finance sector, building the city budget. In that office I learned to know how the city works and all the municipal organizations. It was at that time when I applied for the open vacancy for the municipal secretary for the council group of the National Coalition. Since I already knew the people and the organizations of the city administration, it was easier for me to get the job. Before me, the municipal secretaries had mostly been elderly men.... I was 27 or 26 years old at that time, and I remember when I entered the meeting room of the council group for the first time. All these 'strutting old fellows' were watching me and asked 'who is She?'. It was quite difficult during the first months. I thought that this is not going to work at all. At first I did not quite understand where it was going...

4. In which areas do you see your special competencies?
Municipal economy, surely, and all the issues related to it. Also municipal politics and all the mechanisms in that. Then there is youth policy - I have been a member of the municipal board of culture and leisure in Tampere in which I became familiar with young peoples' problems. I am a member of the Administrative Committee of Parliament where municipal policies are prepared and debated.

5. Which are your political priorities?
I do not know if they can be measured so concretely, but young people, appreciating young people and their culture, is one thing. That is an essential part of this society and to take up this issue is really important. One must try to improve young people's self-confidence. There is a lot of talk about social exclusion of young people, but nobody mentions those young persons who are competent and diligent and work hard.
Another important issue is drug abuse and narcotics offence. These issues are discussed in the Law Committee of Parliament and even in the Grand Committee of Parliament in which I am working. I hope that we will be able to do something about these matters during the upcoming three years. In the Grand Committee of Parliament, we have also debated the European strategies for narcotics offence for the years 2201-2004.
Thirdly, I think it a shame that we in Finland still have emergency relief for poor people, such as so called 'food banks' (organizing distribution of food supplies among people in need). Something has to been done to get these people back to 'normal life'. Some of them are surely capable of participate in working life, if we could help them in a right way. I am not suggesting that they should work eight hours per day at once, but to offer them something sensible to do, say for 2 to 3 hours by day. I am not trying to take away their welfare benefits, but, damn, they should have something to do in order to have a sensible life! I believe that I would use active social policy - which has been much criticized - to help the long-time unemployed, so that they would be softly and gradually guided back to the working life and role games of society. However, this should be done softly - not taking away their welfare benefits... This is also something that I wish that we here in the Parliament would push forward. It would promote social inclusion.
The fourth issue, I would like to tackle is housewives' pension. For example, when children have grown up, and there is a divorce... Housewives' pension could be paid from their husbands' social (or old age) insurances. If a mother raises her children, say 10 years at home, she has done an important work for society. I am going to do an initiative on this matter quite soon. This will not burden the state economy - the number of housewives in Finland is so small and it surely would not be any option for the working life for most of the people.
There is one good story relating to this. My initiative was mentioned in Aamulehti (newspaper published in Tampere region) and was noticed by an active lady from Tampere. She called to all female MP's and said to them that when Tiura has done her proposal, she will take care that all of you (meaning the female Members of Parliament) will put your name on it. She also said that she would take up every female MP who refuses to sign the proposal and publish their names somewhere. There is a certain amount of civil activism in this matter. I replied to her e-mail message, thanked her and said that you have made a good job since now all the female MP's from my group are willing to discuss this proposal.

6. Which are your main fields of actions?
They are education policy, students' social security schemes and related issues, but also inner security, police issues, and particularly, criminality relating to narcotics. The latter is extremely interesting, and includes motorcycle gangs and all that...

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

1. Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
I was elected in the Parliament a year ago. I am now trying to learn how all this works, so, it is really difficult to me to answer to that question right now. After the next parliamentary elections, I will be much wiser. I am not a typical politician in the sense that I would do this with 'blood between my teeth '... I am calm and follow up how things are going. I will be in politics as long as I feel that it is reasonable and as long as it is nice to be in it. If I am not re- elected, my world will not tumble down. To me this is a work place, a job for four years, and I will do my best, but if that is not enough, and I do not manage to get here for the next term, then I won't. I am 30 years old - let's see what life brings along.
Nevertheless, my objectives for political work… Well, this repeats what I have already said earlier, but narcotics offence is the first thing that comes to mind. I have made a proposal of raising the punishment of narcotics offence. The second issue is housewives' pensions. Thirdly, I want to appreciate young people and their culture and to improve their position, for example, through students' social security. It is namely so, that in this society, students are the only group which at the moment must live under the limits set to the general subsistence security. (Financial aid to students is lower than those limits, JK).

2. Do equal opportunity strategies - in your opinion - have an impact in your country to promote women in decision-making? (quota, EO legislation, etc... please name the strategy)
They have helped in the sense that women have learned to trust themselves; they have become more self-confident in conjunction with public debates on gender equality. There are good examples of women who have made a high-profile political career, such as the Speaker of Parliament (Riitta Uosukainen, National Coalition, JK), for example. There are Members of Parliament, women, who are extremely, so to say 'tough ladies', such as Paula Kokkonen, who 'brings her fist down on the table'.
On the other hand, it is so that a male citizen, for example, would rather contact a male MP than a female MP whom he does not know. Male politicians are very easily form a kind of 'dear-fellow network' that may have a meeting now and then in the evenings. However, if you are an unmarried woman and you try to go with this gentleman - guess what happens? Also female politicians may use this as a 'weapon to strike with' - 'there is she, sitting with old fellows with whom she has been going out with at night' and so on...
This I have noticed and now, even if I would like to go out sometimes with my male colleagues, for example, I cannot do that. In my previous job in which I got better along with my male colleagues than my female colleagues, I could do that. Here, in the Parliament, this is out of the question. It is so different with men - they can come and go, as they like - but not us women, if you want to keep your good reputation. I have done that, but I have also heard of it. All this publicity here in the Parliament … the media is surely interested in every step that, particularly female MP's make in this sense.
About gender quotas - 40/60 - I don't know, in some places they cause difficulties since... I think, that all in all, it is also in women's interest that the most competent is chosen. It would be surely awful if we have to choose 'quota women' to all positions, which is not right at least in all situations. Nevertheless, I also agree that there are situations in which it is really good that we have these regulations - otherwise men would surely hoard all the places for themselves. Gender quotas are not applied to the Committees of Parliament. This is strange.

3. Did you benefit from these strategies?
I think they have brought self-confidence to many women... but I do not know if they have worked that way in my case... I am a woman and in a way sometimes I have noticed that I have to raise my voice and even yell at some older male politician. This is where I get self-confidence! However, to be straight, I have never been elected or appointed in any position because I am a woman.... When I was running for a candidacy in the parliamentary election, there was a need to have younger candidates in my party - so it could have been a young man instead of me.

4. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in "conventional" policy-making? What is it that keeps women from committing themselves to politics?
This is more about personality. Male politicians are always in a hurry to go forward; perhaps they are more in a hurry than female politicians are, in a way. Men are more ambitious in certain situations... Discrimination against women? There might sometimes be an underestimation of a kind that you are, for example, called as a 'girl', but it does not bother me so much anymore. I have gotten used to it in a way. But what makes me angry is when an older male politician says, for example in the meeting of a Committee of Parliament, that 'this girl did not know anything at all', referring to a speech of a female minister of the Government. I was really angry about that.
There are situations that might relate to my female sex. For example, when I am preparing myself to an interview on radio or TV, I feel so nervous that I have to read all the documents and information related to the subject before the interview. I have a feeling that I have to know everything about the subject - otherwise they will call me a 'stupid girl' or something. This kind of things may happen really easily: that you are said to be foolish, or that 'she does not know anything'. This is why I have this obsession to know everything...
Even my assistant tells me to stop this saying that you don't have know every detail, since I am even studying all the figures and percentages: 'what is this, where does it come from, etc.'. I have more pressure to prepare myself carefully, while male politicians usually just go there, not having been especially prepared to answer the questions. This is a higher threshold for female politicians; women are more critical when it comes to themselves. I also am very critical about what I say and do, I might even ask somebody - 'how did it go' - after my presentation. I know that I have to learn to trust myself. But it is not only me - many of the other younger female parliamentarians, they really use a lot of time to study and learn everything profoundly - because if they make one single mistake... So, this is a problem, if one has to think all the time, if you really can do this, do I dare to go there, am I really good enough in this, etc....

5. What is that keeps women from committing themselves to politics? What are the major obstacles?
I was thinking about this question beforehand, and my answer is 'home door'. One has to be able to get out of that door... For example, I met two ladies about my age in the member meeting of the National Coalition party, who both had two small children. Both of them said that they are really interested in politics, and would like to run for a candidacy in municipal elections. I said that of course you should. There is really a need for candidates who are young and women and have small children - because this is what we do not have in the National Coalition. They replied that they couldn't do that, because they do not know enough about politics. I said this is rubbish; you can always get all the information you need, go to the Internet or call to me. Our society is full of information. This cannot be an obstacle. Then they said that they cannot do that because - 'what would my family say, what would the neighbors say, since I have children'. I said that nobody would be against that - even in the Parliament there are plenty of female parliamentarians that have small children.
So, the highest threshold for women to enter in political career is a home door and that one must have the courage to take distance from her family. However, there are a lot of divorces among young female politicians. I am in a happy situation - or I don't know if this is a happy situation - since I don't have a family of my own. I am living together with my boyfriend but we are not married.

6. What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
I have never had any. I was so young when I moved away from my home. For example, I spent a year and a half in Texas, USA, when I was 17-18 years old, and went to school there. I moved away from home when I was 18 years old and have always lived my own life. I have had a good family, not a family that would bind me down, which is often the case in farms, keeping children 'by the fireside'. I have never had that kind of feeling, partially, because my father was involved in politics and was always been busy doing this and that outside the home. My mother has also studied at university... Both of my parents have always encouraged me to try new things."

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