A brief history of Miessakit ry

The driving forces behind Miessakit ry were the ideas developed by social educator and psychotherapist Antti-Veikko Perheentupa and his wife Britt-Marie. They recognized that men and women needed new kinds of gender-specific spaces where societal changes and the possibilities and challenges they were bringing about could be discussed.

For the most part, men and women face similar issues when it comes to social wellbeing. There are, however, biological and sociocultural factors that produce gender-specific differences between men and women whose importance cannot be understated. In light of this, Antti-Veikko and Britt-Marie recognized the need for separate communities for men and women and the significance such communities had in supporting the mutually supportive companionship between the sexes.

To this end, Antti-Veikko Perheentupa began organizing men’s groups at the end of the 1980’s and the beginning of the 90’s. Men in these groups could mirror their experiences with other men and begin their paths of spiritual growth. Participants were so impressed with the groups that, together with Perheentupa, they founded an association whose goal was to create a national support network for men. As a result, the meeting that established Miessakit ry was held in 1995.

Finland’s Slot Machine Association (Raha-automaattiyhdistys) and the Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisations (STEA/Veikkaus) have funded Miessakit ry from the beginning. In 1996, a three-year grant enabled Miessakit ry to launch its operations.The focus of the first years of operation was especially on developing a model for men’s peer groups. The association trained peer group counselors, supported them in the practical aspects of organizing peer groups, and raised awareness about the association’s peer group activities. The Men’s Forum (Miesfoorumi) was also launched at this time, and its goal was to organize public discussions on the relationship between the society and masculinity.Miessakit ry was also involved in developing a yearly conference in Tampere that gathered men to discuss various themes related to men’s issues. All in all, the first few years were fruitful, and the association managed to amass a wealth of information about the gender-specific challenges men face.

From the year 1997 onwards, Miessakit ry has launched several targeted services to meet the needs for social support that are most common among men. These services and projects include intimate partner violence (Lyömätön Linja, Väkivaltaa Kokeneet Miehet), divorce support (Erosta Elossa), support for fathers (Isyyden Tueksi and MASI) and support for immigrant men (Vieraasta Veljeksi) among others.

Along with the services built on professional expertise, Miessakit ry has offered easily accessible activities for men in the form of peer groups. As well as supporting men’s social wellbeing, these groups allow men to take care of their physical and mental health through, for example, exercise and attending cultural events. In 2000, the association appointed a network of volunteer men (Yhdysmiehistö) to support local men’s groups. The network comprised 25 localities in 2010. It was the fulfillment of the idea at the heart of the founding of the association: creating a support network for men.

Throughout its history, Miessakit ry has been involved in influencing larger societal changes by advocating for male-specific points of view in welfare and equality policies. The goal has been to provide constructive counsel on men’s issues, so that the male point of view is taken into consideration when plans for social reforms are made. This ensures that the goals of such reforms become as concrete as possible. A core value guiding the association’s views on social policy has been the mutually respectful and supportive companionship between men and women.

A notable characteristic of Miessakit ry has always been that all its operations are run by men. It has been a crucial component in developing services and projects that men find most engaging. It enables a cycle of deep understanding between men, empowers them in constructive and positive ways, which in turn benefits the people around them and, ultimately, bolsters the social wellbeing of the larger community and society.

The 2000s brought a new dimension to Miessakit ry and its operations: Using the knowledge gained from developing its operations, the association began to offer training for example in the form of continuing vocational training for professionals and students in the fields of education, welfare and healthcare. Miestyön Osaamiskeskus organizes training programs geared specifically for men and offers programs for women also. The fact is that most of the professionals working in the field of social welfare are women and need to keep their training in male-specific practices up to date.