Målfrid Grude Flekkøy

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Målfrid Grude Flekkøy
Born (1936-11-29)29 November 1936
Oslo, Norway
Died 2 November 2013(2013-11-02) (aged 76)
Nationality Norwegian
Occupation Psychologist
Known for First Children's Commissioner in Norway
Parent(s) Sigmund Skard
Åse Gruda Skard
Relatives Halvdan Skard (brother)
Torild Skard (twin sister)
Halvdan Koht (grandfather)
Karen Grude Koht (grandmother)
Matias Skard (grandfather)
Paul Koht (uncle)
Tobias Gedde-Dahl (father-in-law)

Målfrid Grude Flekkøy (29 November 1936 – 2 November 2013) was a Norwegian chief psychologist and civil servant.[1] Having worked for several years in different health and educational institutions for children she was appointed as Children's Commissioner in Norway from 1981 to 1989, the first person in the world to hold such a position. She established and developed the role, and after eight years (two terms) the UN Organization for Children UNICEF engaged her to assist in spreading the institution to other countries. Målfrid Grude Flekkøy travelled extensively, participated in professional organizations and wrote books and articles on children's rights. At her death in 2013, more the 80 children's commissioners were set up around the world.

Personal life[edit]

Målfrid Skard was born in Oslo as a daughter of professor Sigmund Skard (1903–1995) and one of the most known child psychologists in Norway Åse Gruda Skard (1905–1985).[2] She was a sister of Anne, Åsmund and Halvdan Skard and twin sister of Torild Skard[3] Through her mother, she was a granddaughter of historian and minister of foreign affairs Halvdan Koht and women's activist Karen Grude Koht,[4] and through her father she was a granddaughter of superintendent of schools Matias Skard and teacher Gyda Benedikte born Christensen and niece of Torfinn, Bjarne, Eiliv, Olav, Vemund and Gunhild Skard and Målfrid Birkeland. She was also a niece of Paul Koht.

From 1962 to 1981 she was married to psychologist Kjell Magne Flekkøy (born 1939) and had three children: Eirik, Kjetil and Ingunn. From 1983 to 1995 she had her second marriage to Truls Wilhelm Gedde-Dahl (born 1930).[5]


Målfrid Grude Flekkøy grew up in Norway and USA. When German troops attacked Norway in 1940, the family fled to the US. In 1945 they moved back to Norway and Målfrid finished secondary school at Stabekk near Oslo in 1956. She then took education as a preschool teacher in Århus, Denmark. She took the cand.psychol. degree at the University of Oslo in 1967 and became a specialist in clinical psychology in 1973. In 1991 she took the doctor's degree at the University of Ghent, Belgium.

From 1959 to 1960 she was a kindergarten teacher in Oslo. Then she worked as a psychologist at the Emma Hjorth home for mentally handicapped children in 1968-69 and at the Nic Waal child psychiatric institute in the Oslo area in 1969-72. She went to the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Hospital in the US in 1972-73. From 1973 to 1976 she was employed at the child psychiatric ward at the Ullevål hospital in Oslo. From 1976 to 1979 she was a chief psychologist at the health care for mentally handicapped in Akershus, near Oslo, and from 1979 to 1981 educational and psychological counsellor for pre-school children in the municipality of Bærum, near Oslo. From 1991 she worked as a chief psychologist at the Nic Waal institute until she retired in 2005, only interrupted in 1997 by a trip to the US, where she was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Families in Society at the University of South Carolina. Here she wrote the book "The participation rights of children" together with Natalie H. Kaufman.[6]

She was an active leader in the YWCA scouts and a member of the board of SOS Children's Villages in Norway. She was engaged in local politics in 1971-83 and 2007–13, mostly in Bærum, near Oslo, representing the Labour Party.[7]

Children's Commissioner[edit]

From 1981 to 1989 Flekkøy served as the Children's Commissioner in Norway; the first commissioner of its kind in the world.[8] She developed a new role based on hard work and professional thoroughness and rooted it both in politics and the children. She contributed to the expansion of research on children in Norway and pioneered the efforts to obtain a total ban on physical punishment, which was adopted in 1987. Many countries followed the example of the Nordic in this area. Afterwards she became a Senior Fellow at UNICEF's International Child Development Center in Florence, Italy, to promote the concept of children's commissioner worldwide. She traveled internationally and assisted among others Costa Rica in establishing the commissioner institution. In addition she wrote books and articles, among others "Working for the Rights of Children" (UNICEF, Florence, 1990) and her doctor's thesis, "A Voice for Children" (UNICEF, London, Kingsley, 1991), which she dedicated to her mother. At her death in 2013 the Norwegian government thanked Flekkøy for her efforts for children and youth both in Norway and abroad, the Norwegian Commissioner for Equality, Sunniva Ørstavik, proposed that a parade street in Oslo should be named after Flekkøy, and UNICEF noted that Målfrid Grude Flekkøy had been an example and an advocate for children's rights worldwide.[9]

From 1964 to 1971 Flekkøy was secretary and acting secretary general for the World Organization for Early Childhood Education and Care (OMEP). In 1986-89 she was secretary general for the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP). In 1992 she became Vice President Europe in Defence Children International and collaborator in the International Journal of Children's Rights and in 1998 President of the Children's Rights Publications Foundation in the Netherlands. In 2006 she was designated honorary member of OMEP for her efforts [10]


  1. ^ "Norway's first Children's Commissioner dies". The Norway Post. NRK. 4 November 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Målfrid Grude Flekkøy", http://www.snl.no Store norske leksikon and www.nbl.snl.no Norsk biografisk leksikon|encyclopedia|and newspaper=Ny Tid|15 November 2013|language=Norwegian
  3. ^ Åse Gruda Skard: "Ei minnebok 1905-1940" and "Ei minnebok 1940-1985", Oslo, Gyldendal, 1985 and 1986
  4. ^ "Hvem er hvem?"(Who's who)in Norwegian, 1994, Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget, page 143
  5. ^ http://www.nbl.snl.no Norsk biografisk leksikon
  6. ^ http://www.snl.no and nbl.snl.no: "Målfrid Grude Flekkøy" and Prospects, vol 29 issue 2, June 1999
  7. ^ http://www.nbl.snl.no Norsk biografisk Leksikon
  8. ^ http://www.nbl.snl.no Norsk biogragisk leksikon
  9. ^ The Ministry for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion: "Til minne om Målfrid Grude Flekkøy", regjeringen.no, Dagsavisen, 29 Nov 2013 and Merete Agerbak-Jensen: "UNICEF: Flekkøy var et forbilde for hele verden", Utdanningsnytt, 4 Nov 2014
  10. ^ Philip Veerman and Målfrid Grude Flekkøy: "Editorial", The International Journal of Children's Rights, 6: v-vi, 1998, and "Honorary Members", worldomep.org
Civic offices
Preceded by
Position created
Children's Commissioner in Norway
Succeeded by
Trond Viggo Torgersen