Matti Väliahdet from Rovaniemi, Christopher Gullmans from Espoo and Janne Saarela from Seinäjoki were awarded the Father of the Year prize on Tuesday, said the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in a press release.
The prize was presented to the winners by Minister of Social Security Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.
The awarded fathers have set an example of safe and responsible parenting as fathers and promoted gender equality in family life by, for example, taking time to take care for their children.
They have found ways to support their children in exceptional situations, acted in the best interest of their children and raised issues related to fatherhood.
“I hope that, as a society, we would be able to value fatherhood more and support fathers in taking an even greater role in the everyday lives of their children and families. This is important for equal parenting but especially for children and their fathers,” said Grahn-Laasonen.
“It would be important for fathers to speak more about the moments of happiness and feelings of meaningfulness that are connected with fatherhood and parenting. There isn’t just one way to be a good father. When reforming social security and other structures and safety nets in society, the diversity of families should be taken better into account,” the Minister added.
“The now awarded fathers each promote recognition of the significance of fatherhood in a versatile and topical manner. This year the themes common to the award – i.e. diversity of fathers and families, equality and breaking of gender stereotypes – are naturally built on the backgrounds and life situations of the awarded fathers,” said Programme Manager Anna Kokko of the Family Federation of Finland, who also chairs the working group preparing the award of the 2023 Father of the Year prize.
Winners of the 2023 Father of the Year prize
Janne Saarela (45) is a father of four children from Seinäjoki. Saarela was awarded the prize because of his active involvement in his children’s leisure activities and his efforts to challenge outdated gender norms, for example. Saarela is one of the founding members of a men’s synchronised skating team in Seinäjoki, and he is still actively involved in the team’s activities. In addition to providing an opportunity for men to participate in a leisure activity together, the team aims to shape the idea of who can take up figure skating. As a member of the team and a former captain, Saarela has been a role model and offered support for boys who figure skate.
Matti Väliahdet (84) is a single parent and a grandfather. Väliahdet has four children, and he was an informal caregiver to his youngest child for over 30 years after the child's mother died. He stopped being an informal caregiver a couple of years ago when the child was offered a place in a supported housing unit. In addition to being an informal caregiver, he has been a caring father to all his children. Väliahdet was awarded the prize because he has set an example of safe and hands-on fatherhood. He is also actively involved in local association activities.
Christopher Gullmans (36) was adopted to Finland as a child. Currently, Gullmans is staying at home to care for his and his wife’s child who requires special attention. The grounds for awarding Gullmans included his exemplary model as a father and his will to share care responsibilities equally. Gullmans lost his parents in early childhood, and he has also faced other challenges during his life. He has openly shared his experiences of fatherhood and thoughts about parenthood in different blogs, for example.
The Father of the Year prize is awarded to a person who, through his own example and actions, has promoted recognition of the significance of fatherhood and thus increased its appreciation. The aim of the prize is to put active fatherhood on a firmer footing in people's thinking. The goal is to strengthen fatherhood, support the reconciliation of work and family life, promote the child's best interests and boost gender equality.
The first Father of the Year prize was awarded in 2006. A total of 46 fathers, including the winners in 2023, have received the prize.
The Family Federation of Finland, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and national family and other organisations, was responsible for preparing the award.
- Father of the Year