How can investing in women and girls accelerate global development beyond 2015?

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher The Office of the Prime Minister

Remarks Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Ending Poverty through Parity, World Economic Forum in Davos.

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Members of the World Economic Forum, ladies and gentlemen,

Poverty eradication and sustainable development are inextricably linked with women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality. Empowering women and girls increases productivity. The UNDP Gender Inequality Index shows that countries with higher gender equality have a higher per capita gross domestic product.

The International Finance Corporation’s publication Investing in Women’s Employment – Good for business, good for development (2013) provides compelling evidence that the role of women and gender relations in low- and middle-income countries are critical.

It concludes that, “economic growth is more robust and sustainable when women and men alike participate fully in the labour market. Better jobs for women —employment that leads to higher wages and greater decision-making — also have a positive influence on the ways households spend money on children’s nutrition, health, and education. Companies that invest in women’s employment gain an important competitive advantage.”

Investments in educating girls may offer the highest returns possible in the developing world. One more year of primary education typically boosts the wages earned by between 5 % and 15 %. While after one more year of secondary school wages increase by between 15 % and 25 %, with generally greater increases for girls than for boys.

When women are educated, they gain more influence and control of their lives. Better economic opportunities and stronger political participation also strengthen their roles as agents of change and their ability transform their societies for the better.

In my role as co-chair of the MDG Advocacy Group, I have made girls’ education a top priority.

Women make up more than half the labour force in the agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. If women in these countries had access to the same input factors as men they could perform significantly better.

Closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains both for this sector and for society as a whole. Women could then increase yields on their farms by 20–30 %. This could raise the country’s total agricultural output by 2.5–4 %, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17 %.

This means that the new Sustainable Development Goal for women´s rights must be more ambitious than the current MDG 3.

In our foreign and development policy, we promote women’s access to decent work, equal opportunities to start up businesses, and the empowerment of women in agriculture and fisheries, all of which enhance women’s economic security. We work together with partner countries and civil society in these efforts, as well as through multilateral channels. 

  • In Ethiopia, Norwegian funding to UN Women has helped to provide business training for 9000 women. This will have a positive impact on their families’ living conditions and for society as a whole.
  • We have helped to secure land rights for women in Nicaragua and Uruguay.
  • We have also provided support for the agriculture sector in Zambia and Malawi that has increased the crops produced by women.

The costs of gender discrimination and gender-based violence are high. Recent studies in a range of countries, including Norway, various EU countries, Vietnam and South Africa, show that the costs of violence against women and girls are huge, not only for the victims, but also for society as a whole.

In Vietnam the costs related to health, social and legal services, as well as loss of labour and productivity, in connection with violence, amount to 1.41% of GDP.

It is well documented that women’s empowerment is closely linked to economic development and prosperity.

In closing, I would also like to remind you that equality between women and men is a human right with its own merit. We must never trade that off.

Thank you.