Sonja Naalisvaara for SYL’s Board for 2023!

I am Sonja Naalisvaara, and I am applying for the Board of the National Union of University Students in Finland for 2023 to help make the student movement even more impactful than it already is and ensure that the voice of us students can be heard during the upcoming parliamentary election year.

Who is Sonja?

  • Bachelor of Science in environmental sciences, master’s student in sustainability science, 28 years old
  • Member of HYY’s Board (city, housing, health and development cooperation)
  • From Rovaniemi
  • Empathetic, determined and practical
  • Strengths: advocacy work, ability to learn new things and cooperation and organisation skills
  • I love to-do lists, karaoke, hiking and my dog, Panda!

Why Sonja?

Next year is the most important one for SYL during the upcoming four-year term, as the new government’s programme will be decided next year. SYL’s Board needs a team player with strong expertise, political eye and the ability to influence matters and absorb new information at short notice.

During the past year, I have learned how to conduct systematic, goal-oriented advocacy work. One of my advocacy work projects has been getting the state to subsidise HSL to ensure that the price of student tickets would not increase. We cooperated on this with the City of Helsinki and HSL, while I also advanced the matter with an opinion piece and a statement made by World Student Capital ry, for instance. I have also gained more knowledge and understanding of the FSHS’s operation and increased awareness of the effects of mental health challenges.

Before the year began, housing policy was a completely alien concept to me, but it did not take long before we were making statements on the Act on Joint Management of Rental Buildings and I was holding a speech on student housing at the International Social Housing festival. This demonstrates some of my strengths: the ability to quickly absorb new information, determinedly advocating impactful action and organisation skills. I have a keen political eye and know how to find the best ways to influence a particular situation when the opportunity to influence matters arises. These are especially important skills for SYL next year.

That is why Sonja.

Sonja's SYL

    • Impactful parliamentary election campaign that reflects students

      As said, next year is critically important for SYL and students. We must ensure that students’ voice is heard during the parliamentary elections and seen in the new government programme. This requires work from the entire student movement, which is why SYL must actively and openly communicate with student unions during the spring. Materials must be available in time and in three languages. The main objectives in the campaign must be clear and the entire student movement on the same page to ensure that we students together manage to run an impactful parliamentary election campaign that reflects us.


      Next year, I want to be at SYL to promote the following matters:

      • Securing students’ subsistence
      • Ensuring student health care and preventing the underlying causes of mental health problems
      • Preventing the sustainability crisis


    • Securing subsistence

      As we students well know, students’ subsistence is already on such a fragile foundation that it influences our wellbeing and mental health. Students must be included in the social security reform, and the emphasis on loans must be abandoned to ensure that students will no longer have to live under the poverty line while getting into debt.

      Subsistence must also be assessed on a long-term basis. Housing costs are the largest single expense item for students. By promoting student housing, we are securing students’ subsistence in the long term in particular: when an increasing number of students can use affordable, high-quality student housing, they are also more likely to have better opportunities to lead a financially balanced life and take care of their coping.

      The Government Report on Housing Policy published in the spring included the goal of having over half of all students living in student apartments. This is an important and ambitious goal, but realising it requires a lot of active action. I believe that SYL should be even more active in housing policy than it has been thus far, as housing policy can be used to strongly and surely improve student wellbeing and subsistence.

    • Ensuring student health and the underlying causes of mental health

      The FSHS is in an unsustainable situation. Demand for students’ mental health services has doubled, and students are not getting the help they need. The FSHS’s resources must be secured and students’ access to treatment guaranteed. SYL should be more active in its advocacy work for the FSHS in particular, as no-one else does it, and the FSHS does not have enough resources for it. The FSHS must also have the opportunity to focus on developing its basic functions instead of running several projects.

      In terms of mental health, however, we cannot focus only on securing mental health services: we must also focus on preventing the underlying causes of mental health problems. Financial uncertainty causes stress and exposes students to mental health symptoms. Some students have to go to work at the expense of their coping. At the same time, we are required to graduate in target time and actively form networks in the University community. On top of all this, we are currently living in the middle of several crises: with the environmental crisis and the Russian attack raging on, students may find the future extremely unpredictable. For this reason, solving the mental health crisis is connected to social policy, educational policy and the prevention of the sustainability crisis.

    • The sustainability crisis does not wait

      SYL must be involved in the prevention of the sustainability crisis, as the work is about ensuring the future of SYL and both current and future students. The Earth’s carrying capacity is under massive strain, and its boundaries have already been crossed in relation to the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and land use, for instance. All these problems are interconnected and accelerate one another. This is why we need active and concrete action at once. In addition to all this, the Russian attack has made all of us understand how it is more important than ever to phase out fossil fuels. The prevention of the sustainability crisis is also a security issue.

      For this reason, we must demand measures such as increasing carbon sinks, protecting endangered ecosystems and making taxation and subsidisation systems more sustainable. SYL must demand sustainability action both nationally and at EU level. This is about the future of us students, and we need action now.


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