The Family Federation of Finland /Väestöliitto and SámiSoster join forces to support Sámi-speaking educators and protect children

Väestöliitto ry and SámiSoster ry have jointly produced material for the upbringing of children in three Sámi languages. Newly produced safety skills and sexuality education materials for young children are now available in Northern Sámi, Inari Sámi, and Skolt Sámi.

At the beginning of the project, appropriate vocabulary was missing in many Sámi languages. How to talk about children’s body or masturbation? Solutions were sought together with Sámi translators. The Family Federation of Finland and SámiSoster have trained staff, created templates, and developed new words for all three languages.

The use of native language material with families with small children and early childhood education professionals is important for language vitality. As we develop new terminology in the Sámi languages to meet new vocabulary needs, minority languages become stronger and language users will be in a more equal position with users of the main languages. The translation work also benefits Sámi speakers across Finnish borders, regardless of their place of residence. A living and evolving language and culture supports the growth of new generations to become self-sufficient and well-being.

When talking about the body, emotions, and safety from an early age, the culture of shame, silence, and speechlessness that sometimes surrounds a subject can disappear. You can only protect what you can talk about.

Check out the Sámi language materials here.


Body-emotion education in three original Sámi languages

The aim of the co-operation between Väestöliitto ry and SámiSoster ry has been to offer know-how, models, and materials for body-emotion education (e.g., comprehensive safety skills and sexuality education for young children) in the indigenous peoples of Finland. The collaboration has been pioneering and very fruitful. We have had visible changes and functional outputs for both everyday life and work in schools and day-care.

Comprehensive body-emotion education training was carried out in Sámiland with funding from the National Agency for Education in 2019–2020. This also enabled for the northernmost Finnish early childhood and primary education staff to participate in the training, which was attended by participants from Utsjoki and Karigasniemi. The comprehensiveness, depth, and long duration of the training received special praise from the students.

In the final seminar of the Väestöliitto’s three-year STEA-funded Body, Emotion and Safety project on October 29, 2021, the Sámi language areas and cultural co-operation were strongly featured. There has been co-operation in translating the materials, adapting them to the local culture and developing the vocabulary.

Languages evolve over time

One’s own language connects one to own culture and to the generations that lived before. Language is always alive as well. New terminology and vocabulary are created as needed. The project has developed new terminology in the Sámi languages to meet new vocabulary needs.

The most important materials developed for body-emotion education have been translated into the three Sámi languages spoken in Finland. Thus, all language groups have equal access to them. The translation work benefits the Sámi-speaking people regardless of their place of residence and across the borders of Finland. The use and visibility of material in one’s own language is important and enables the vocabulary to be gradually introduced into everyday use.

The development of new terminology has been a huge task. It has already taken time to find suitable translators, and they have delved into the subject through their own cultural sources in consultation and joint seminars. The produced materials are divided into specific language centres (kielipesä), which are available in all three Sámi languages in different municipalities, as well as in the early childhood education and in schools. The social and health care line of the Sámi Training Centre also receives materials. It is a wonderful thing that important material is now available in minority languages.

The development work was also supported by Duodecim, which provided in 2019 a grant to translate children’s safety skills and body-emotion education materials and vocabulary into the Sámi languages. The year 2019 was the year of the UN Indigenous Languages, and Duodecim honoured the languages of the only indigenous people in Finland and the EU, the Sámi people, by supporting SámiSoster ry and Väestöliitto ry with a grant of 6,000 euros.