Historical archive

Power Resistance – The Impact of Gender Concerning Relation Between Minorities and Majorities.

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Children and Equality

First of all, I would like to use this opportunity to thank the FEMM-network for the invitation to this conference, and for doing such important work.

I. Introduction

First of all, I would like to use this opportunity to thank the FEMM-network for the invitation to this conference, and for doing such important work.

I truly regret that there has been no possibility for me to participate in the conference before it is about to end. 

However, I am pleased to be here now and for the opportunity to address you at the conference’s conclusion.

In the course of the relatively short period of time the FEMM-network has existed (since 2003), it has received a prominent place in the work with themes related to gender, feminism and multi-culturalism.

Research must be prioritized and utilized to document and to fully comprehend the development in society, and in this context, gender in a minority and majority perspective. The importance of research as a basis for policy development and for planning and implementation of focused measures is of invaluable significance for us as politicians.

II. Vision
The Norwegian Cabinet’s vision is that Norway should be the most inclusive and the most gender equal country in the world.

The minority population contributes to a diversity which makes Norway richer, both culturally and economically. For such a positive development to continue, the goal must be to build our society on equal worth, solidarity, justice and equality between the sexes.

We shall work for equal treatment which translates to equal rights and obligations for both women and men to self-sufficiency, influence, and development of talents and skills.  

This means equal opportunities for participation in society in all sectors and areas, to our common benefit.

 
III. Minority Women: A Resource for the Norwegian Society

For too many years and in too many ways minority women has been seen as a problem, as challenges and victims – someone to feel sorry for. This describes a reality, but not the only reality.

Women in the immigrant communities are far more than victims or a burden for the Norwegian Welfare System. Slowly, we have come to realize that these women have proven courage, personal initiative and strength - just by migrating. Carrying different cultures, mastering several languages and representing many continents, they provide much needed competences and experience in the Norwegian Labour Market. We, dear sisters – because I am also an immigrant woman – are not a burden. We have resources, knowledge and competence our country need.

It is about time that we appreciate competence in a much broader sense! Our traditional understanding of a persons' knowledge and competence, are often limited. Thus, as Hadia Tajik has mentioned, we need to conquer the power of definition also when we decide and define what competence is.

When companies in Norway hire new employees, they mostly look for people with the same educational background, people who think, look and act in a similar way as themselves and the present "crew".
Instead, one should be looking for diversity, people from different countries and ethnic groups; with language and cultural traits different from the majority’s. Further; people whose competences are complementary to the prevailing culture and knowledge in the company!

To enhance such recruiting behavior, we must change the way we perceive competence and our attitude towards persons from minorities. And we must professionalize the hiring process in this direction.

As of 18th October last year I got the responsibility for all law areas against discrimination and for equality. By doing this, our Cabinet’s ambition is to mainstream and coordinate this work in a much more successful and comprehensive way.

This week the Government launched a new program where 12 governmental entities will start a policy of moderate quotation of people with an immigrant background. We have seen how successful we have been using radical quotation of women in the ASA corporate boards. As of January 1st 2008, we introduced moderate quotation of immigrants. I am confident that in our goals to secure diversity it will lead to better services, higher production and happier customers, and – well qualified and motivated employees with an immigrant background.

IV. Challenges and measures

Even though we are establishing a new regime in how we approach women of the immigrant communities, we are still facing some major challenges in this policy area. Thus, from this Government, minority women have been the subject of increasing attention, both in gender equality and integration policies.

And not without reason.

In addition to the challenges women in Norway are facing, many minority women suffer from double discrimination, both as women and as a part of an ethnic minority. They may encounter special challenges related to linguistic, cultural and religious identity and to external attributes such as skin colour and the way they dress. In addition, a significant number of minority women might lack knowledge concerning fundamental rights and obligations in Norwegian society. 

There are quite a few examples of women who live in a patriarchic family structure: Some are oppressed to an unacceptable degree. This can be from family, spouse and from their own cultural and religious groups. A change in traditional gender roles’ patterns, internally, is therefore an important challenge in the time ahead. Given the importance of increasing equality for minority women, we also need to focus on the roles of men.

When women are discriminated against and suffer from maltreatment in close relations, it will also have an impact on the social and educational possibilities for their children, both boys and girls, in a long-term perspective.  Fathers and men must come “onboard” the “equality” project!

In connection with the White Paper (to Parliament) concerning men and gender equality and male roles being in process, a “Men’s Panel  of 30 competent men has been appointed in order to discuss men’s role in modernity and challenges for gender equality as to masculinity.

In the last panel meeting, Norwegian-Indian Sarita Skagnes presented her book”Bare en datter” (”Only a daughter”). In her book, Ms. Skagnes discusses the issues of living in a strict patriarchic culture which strangles all efforts concerning individual liberation. I believe it is important that men from affected minority milieus, as well as ethnic Norwegian men, take responsibility for bringing this dimension into the debate on the man’s roles.

As said, it is my responsibility but also my privilege, as Minister of Equality, to coordinate these extensive policy areas, which covers equality and anti-discrimination laws and regulations, including work with new discrimination and accessibility law concerning persons with disabilities.

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud has a special role.  Anybody who alleges being discriminated against, due to gender, ethnicity, skin colour, sexual orientation or physical disability, may present their case to the Ombud.

I also want to mention that a new National Plan of Action against racism and discrimination is in the planning: This plan must have an integrated gender perspective. As a conclusion of this conference, I will give several examples of how the Government works in order to achieve and sustain positive and societal changes.

To combat the various forms of honour-based and other violence, the Government has launched several plans of actions with concrete, focused measures.

1) A new plan of action against forced marriages was launched in the fall of 2007.
This plan contains a broad range of measures against forced marriages. The plan shall both attend to prevention and ensure protection to those who are exposed to such encroachments. The plan of action has a particular focus on the schools’ role, the Foreign Service stations, the need for safe living quarters and an increased public coordination and competence.

2) The plan of action against violence in close relations was presented on 13 December 2007.
In this plan, my ministry has a special responsibility for measures directed against women and children who are exposed to violence in the family. The ministry has commenced efforts which shall strengthen the multi-cultural competence in the child welfare services, as well as family care and crisis centers. It is the Government’s aim that the management of the crisis centers will be a public responsibility, and therefore we want to establish legislation in this matter.

3) A new plan of action against female genital mutilation shall be launched in the spring of 2008.
A number of non-governmental organizations and resource persons from the affected milieus, both women and men, were invited to a hearing of this plan. They were encouraged to present concrete suggestions to the measures, and the ministry has received several proposals.

4) The Government is following up and increasing the efforts against human trafficking.
At the end of 2006, a new plan was launched. [Plan of action against trafficking of persons (2006-2009)]. The work is founded on international obligations and regional cooperation.

5) The Norwegian government will continue to give financial support to non-governmental organizations.
It is important for me to emphasize the importance of close cooperation with resource persons from the affected milieus, especially to include minority women’s perspective in the debate concerning gender equality.

6) In addition to the work with these plans of action, last fall a pilot project began directed toward Norwegian-Pakistani women.
Our intention is to test a model which will show how relevant information concerning rights and obligations in the Norwegian society can be communicated to this selected group. The two days event was very successful.

The background for the measure is that many Norwegian-Pakistani women live in traditional Pakistani gender role patterns. They might therefore lack basic information and knowledge concerning their rights and obligations.
At the same time, they might lack information concerning the development of the corresponding areas in the home country.

We invited two prominent women from Pakistani society to Norway in order to participate in an exchange of knowledge and in a debate on gender equality. Evaluation of the two days event demonstrates the value of such efforts.

7) Last, but not least, the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion and the Directorate of Integration and Diversity have the responsibility for the overall integration policies and work-promoting measures.
In 2007, IMDi was given the task to develop proposals for measures that can contribute to increased participation in the labour market among women with minority backgrounds. Participation in the labour market is one of the most important issues in obtaining independence. I look forward to the results of these efforts, particularly in light of the fact that the labour market, according to the prognoses, will be demanding even more labour force in the course of 2008. We are short of labour and need everybody to contribute.

V. Conclusion

As I said at the outset, research is of great importance for us as politicians, and I want to thank the FEMM-network for their efforts.

I believe that through adequate knowledge of contemporary international movements of people, combined with political efforts and focused measures we can contribute to a more just and equal society.

As a conclusion, I also want to repeat my message of immigrant women’s qualification and competences.

Immigrant women are not a burden. They are not only victims.
Immigrant women are strong and courageous.
Immigrant women represent a much needed competence the Norwegian society is in need of.

My goal is that immigrant women will grow and prosper and become a much needed innovative force that will enrich Norway culturally and economically.

Good luck in your future endeavours.