Magdalena Andersson and Sanna Marin - the Swedish and Finnish leaders who are defying Putin
Magdalena Andersson (pictured left) is Prime Minister of Sweden and Sanna Marin (right) is Prime Minister of Finland. Both are changing the histories of their respective countries, which are now demanding NATO membership after decades of being neutral and non-aligned states. But who are these two women challenging Vladimir Putin?
Sanna Marin, Finland's prime minister and one of the world's youngest heads of state, has faced criticism for visiting a club after someone in her cabinet tested positive for Covid-19. But who exactly is Sanna Marin?
Sanna Marin was born in Helsinki in 1985. Her parents separated when she was little because her father was an alcoholic. The Prime Minister was raised by her mother and her partner, and Marin describes herself as coming from a "rainbow family".
The future Prime Minister joined the youth wing of the Social Democratic Party when she was studying administration at the University of Tampere. She managed to become the first vice-president of the social-democratic youth.
Sanna Marin was also the first person in her family to receive higher education. During her studies she also worked as a cashier and in a bakery.
The young politician quickly rose through the ranks of the Social Democrats. In 2012, she was elected to the Tampere City Council, where Marin is best known for watching YouTube videos of her heated debates with other council members, according to the BBC.
At the age of just 29, Marin was elected to Parliament for Pirkanma constituency. The New York Times describes her as "left-leaning, even within her party, and climate change, equality and social welfare are high on her agenda".
The former student at the University of Tampere was quickly spotted by party leader Antti Rinne and became a part of his inner circle.
When Rinne became Prime Minister in June 2019, it was no surprise that Marin was included in his cabinet as Minister for Transport and Communications.
However, it was not easy for the Social Democrats. Rinne resigned six months after being sworn in as Prime Minister after the Center Party left the governing coalition over his handling of a postal strike.
Sanna Marin was elected Prime Minister on 3 December 2019 following her previous mentor. At the time, she was the youngest head of government in the world at just 34 years old.
The Finnish Prime Minister quickly drew media attention as she stands in sharp contrast to older, male-dominated governments. 12 of the 19 members of her five-party cabinet are also women, and three of them are younger than Marin.
Despite all the responsibility and media attention, Sanna Marin still finds time for her private life. In August 2020, the Prime Minister of Finland married her boyfriend Markus Raikkonen in a private ceremony. The couple have a daughter together.
In October 2020, she was criticized for wearing only a blazer during a photo shoot for Trendi magazine. Opposition activists described the pictures as "tasteless" and "degrading", according to The Evening Standard.
The latest controversy for the young prime minister is that she went to a nightclub hours after one of her cabinet members tested positive for Covid-19. Marin claims she only found out about the ill collegue on the following Sunday morning. The opposition found Marin to have been "irresponsible".
Sanna Marin's Swedish counterpart is professional politician Magdalena Andersson, a profession to which she has dedicated her entire life. However, she still finds time to listen to rock music.
Magdalena Andersson was born on January 23, 1967 in Uppsala, north of Stockholm. Her father was a university professor. Young Magdalena excelled as a swimmer and competed at a high level. But her political passion distracted her from her sporting goals.
In 1983 she joined the League of Young Social Democrats and was soon elected chair of the local group in which she was active. She studied economics in Stockholm and worked in the Prime Minister's Office starting in 1996.
Thanks to her training as an economist, she has been appointed to various positions closely related to money: Director of the Inland Revenue (2009), Minister of Finance (2014) and Chair of the Monetary and Financial Committee of the International Monetary Fund (2020).
Like Sanna Marin, Magdalena Andersson became prime minister after her predecessor resigned amid a government crisis. This happened in 2021, and her election was eventful: Parliament voted her down once and a subsequent vote re-elected her as Prime Minister.
It is the first time Sweden has had a female prime minister. Magdalena Andersson is married to Richard Friberg, a professor of economics.
The Prime Minister's fondness for rock music dates back to an interview she gave to Bandit Rock radio station. There she said that her favorite band was System of a Down.
And so it is the heads of state of Sweden and Finland who must steer the NATO membership of two countries that have always championed for peace. But the war in Ukraine is perceived as a threat in these two countries, forcing them to form a military alliance in the event of war.