The world’s youngest prime minister, Sanna Marin, only took office last week: but already, she’s had to deal with ridiculously prejudiced comments from the minister of a neighbouring country.
Estonia’s president has had to apologise after the country’s interior minister dismissed Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest prime minister as a “sales girl”.
Marin, 34, was sworn in as Finland’s leader last week and heads up a coalition government of four other female-led parties.
“Now we see how one sales girl has become a prime minister and how some other street activists and non-educated people have also joined the cabinet,” jeered Mart Helme, the leader of Estonia’s far-right party Ekre, in comments on his party’s radio talk show this weekend.
Marin (pictured middle, below) grew up in a working-class household and had a job as a sales assistant before entering politics. She was the first person in her family to finish high school and attend university.
Helme’s remarks show exactly the kind of barriers that a politician like her faces, even at this point in time. Not only does she have to deal with a horrifying lack of awareness over the importance of social mobility, her age is already being used as a reason to question her skills.
When age is coupled with gender, prejudice becomes twofold: a female politician who has the audacity to be young surely can’t know anything (or so the implication goes).
Not that Marin appears to be put off by Helme’s outrageous comments.
Writing on Twitter, the PM responded that she was “extremely proud of Finland”.
“Here a child from a poor family can get educated and achieve many things in their lives. The cashier of the shop can become a prime minister,” she said.
Estonia’s female president, Kersti Kaljulaid, apologised on behalf of her colleague, and admitted to her Finnish counterpart “how embarrassed I am for all this”.
For his part, Helme said that his comments had been misinterpreted, and offered up a grudging apology. “If someone has misunderstood it… then indeed I want to say that I am offering my apology to the prime minister of Finland,” he said.
In her new role, Marin will lead a coalition made up of the Centre Party’s Katri Kulmuni, Left Alliance’s Li Andersson, Green League’s Maria Ohisalo and Anna-Maja Henriksson from the Swedish People’s Party of Finland.
“I have never thought about my age or gender,” Marin previously told reporters, when asked about her age. “I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate.”