OLL alumni: “During my term as chair, policies were established that still affect students sports”

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The Finnish Student Sports Federation (OLL) addressed lack of exercise and equality and experienced changes in the membership model already in 2014 when Hanna Huumonen was the chair. Although Huumonen had some obstacles to negotiate as a women in the international sports scene, she wouldn’t change her OLL experience for anything.

During my term as chair, we highlighted many sports and equality issues both in Finland and internationally. As the chair, I represented OLL in numerous forums. When abroad, it became obvious to my not everyone was ready to discuss equality issues as seriously as it should.

One of my most memorable experiences was participation in FISU Forum in Gwangju, South Korea, where I gave a speech on the importance of equality in student sports. In subsequent discussions, the attitudes towards female sports became quite clear – I remember, for example, debating with one representative on whether female sports is boring and whether it’s the women’s fault. I received severe underestimation of my gender and inappropriate treatment by my international colleagues, which highlighted even more the matter we had addressed.

Great steps for students sports, and my personal career

The debate on student wellbeing has taken great strides since my days as OLL chair. The status of university sports was becoming more and more established, and the health risks of an immobile life style was being recognised. At the same time, however, the discussion kept going back to the fundamental question: who is responsible for making Finns more active? This was one of the topics we address in our Sports Manifesto. During my term, we also published, together with the Research Foundation for Studies and Education (Otus), a university sports barometer, which deepened understanding of exercise as a key element in the strategy of higher education institutions.

A major challenge during my term as chair was the fact that the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) had decided the year before that they would no longer be members of OLL. Student unions have since then decided independently on their membership. However, we were successful in our efforts in gaining members, and indeed most students unions decided for membership with us. This was not the only major structural change encountered by OLL during my term: we concluded the historic negotiations with the Finnish Olympic Committee, deciding to transfer top students sports under their management.

I gained plenty of experience during my year as chair and a proper human experiment of how I can deal with pressure and in negotiations. I wouldn’t change the experience for anything. The networks I created at the time have supported me to this day. With the OLL job, I also gained my party’s trust to work as member of the National Sports Council from 2019 to 2023 and to lead the Section for Non-discrimination, Equality and Sustainable Development.

After OLL, I worked as a sports expert, as a special assistant in Brussels, and general secretary of a youth organisation in Hakaniemi, Helsinki. Currently I am a leading expert at the City of Helsinki, working on employment matters. We recently adopted a mini intervention model for exercise in the customer work of employment services, originating from cooperation between the Finnish Student Sports Federation and the Finnish Student Health Service in 2013. So OLL is still affecting what I do.

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