A woman can walk home at 1 am in Oslo without any sense of fear.
Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It has the best quality of living and Human Development Index. Norway is also rich with oil and mineral resources and a social democratic country where people actively participate in the political process.
Though many countries claim to have a democratic system of the government, the society is often hierarchical with discrimination on the basis of gender, caste and creed. In this context, Norway is a country from which other countries can learn a lot.
When I lived in Norway, I was impressed by two aspects of this democratisation. First, there is a much more active sense of gender sensitivity and this is seen even in families, offices and public spaces. A woman can walk home at 1 am in Oslo without any sense of fear. The second aspect is the general sense of environmental responsibility. People mostly use public transport or trains in Oslo to go the offices. And in summer, people cycle to work. Gender sensitivity and environmental sensitivity are taught from primary schools.
When I shifted to Oslo in the midst of winter, I was in deep trouble as I could not get a good bed. But a friend of mine came in his own pick-up van, got all parts and assembled a bed in front of me. Then I had a small plumbing problem. I did not know how to fix it. My friend came and fixed it within five minutes. I was really surprised how my friend who is a well known person in this country could do plumbing and carpentry. He said in Norway, these skills are taught in high school. When I had trouble again with my plumbing, I took an appointment with a plumber and realised that the charges are quite high. I was told that a plumber may earn more than a teacher or professor.
Democratic societies can only happen when there is a democratic education. In Norway, all students usually go to the neighborhood school. The son of the CEO and daughter of his gardener may study in the same school. Private schools are too expensive. There is hardly any private hospital in Norway. Irrespective of status, education or position, everyone is eligible for excellent medical care. There is one year of fully paid maternity leave and from the age of one, there is free child care.
When you are old, the government supports you. In Norway a housewife is eligible to get pension as they consider that they help nurture a generation. Due to all these, Norway is one country where people are generally happy to pay tax. While it may not be possible for all countries to be like Norway, given its rich resources, it is indeed possible to learn from Norway, particularly lessons in gender sensitivity and environmental responsibility.
(John Samuel is an international traveller, and researcher on internal relations, public policy and governance)