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Historical archive

The first Women Can Do It (WCDI) Global Conference

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Children and Equality

This conference is a great opportunity to gather many women (and a few men) to share the experience from the program Women Can Do It (WCDI) developed by the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) and the Norwegian Labour Party (NLP).

Belgrade, Serbia

Mr. President, Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, dear participants. It is a great pleasure for me as fairly new Cabinet Minister for Children and Equality to participate at the first Women Can Do It (WCDI) Global Conference.

It is a great opportunity for me here in Belgrade to seek experience about common goals and means all over the world, monitoring and involving all ministries, local institutions and sectors. This conference is a great opportunity to gather many women (and a few men) to share the experience from the program Women Can Do It (WCDI) developed by the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) and the Norwegian Labour Party (NLP). The program started in the 1980s. The idea and concept originated within the Women’s Movement of the Norwegian Labour Party. It was introduced in South East Europe (SEE) in 2001. The program has spread to countries in the Middle East, Africa and even to minority groups in Norway.

The basic values of the Norwegian societal model are, by large, the same as this program: Norway has over the last decades developed into a more equal society. We still have work to do. It has been hard, strategic and long-term political work. The conditions for a more equal society have been – just to mention some high lights:

• Increased political participation of women (in municipal councils, in Parliament and in the Cabinet)
• Increased participation from all women of all levels of society
• A policy that reconcile work and family life by parental leave arrangements and a well developed early child care and sufficient care systems for the elderly
• High employment rate among Norwegian women
• Norway must have a stronger focus on women of ethnic minorities

I believe that Women Can Do It (WCDI) has made a difference both in Norway and elsewhere. It has changed the lives of many women and men. Local communities and civil societies have developed. These experiences show that: Women can do it! So this conference is also time for celebration, a celebration of achievements!

The idea was that something could be done by women in charge! A specific gender perspective was needed. The approach was bottom up and actions on grass root level. In post-conflict areas, we thought it was most needed to mobilise women and girls.  These strong forces should be able to participate in local politics, not only to be seen as victims of conflict and prevailing gender based power structures.  The Stability Pact Gender Task Force (SPGTF) first introduced WCDI in South East Europe (SEE) in 1999. Since 2001 the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) has coordinated the WCDI program in co-operation with the women network of the Norwegian Labour Party and local NGO’s partner organisations from many countries all around the world. All of them are present here to day. Since 2002, local partners (women’s groups) have been the main actors operating the program.

The program has had several objectives:
- Firstly: To raise awareness on prevailing gender inequality
- Secondly: to create capacity to change the situation in a particular country or local community as to empower women, regardless of ethnic, religious or cultural background

The program has increased the political skills and motivation among women to take on responsibilities and decision-making positions in public and political life.

The activities in the program are inter-ethnic. They also cross the sharp dividing line between political blocs in the actual country. I know that the program activities, operating in such a way, contribute to the much-needed reconciliation in this region and elsewhere.

In smaller towns, as in peripheral or rural areas, women get increased influence and experience. In theses areas the participants have come from the health and social sectors, schools and local administration. In lager towns, participants tend to come from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and local branches of the political parties. The program activities have strengthened women’s organisations and underpinned the work on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in general.

Several surveys have stated that the knowledge and skills gained through the program have been useful in everyday life, and thus contributed to a better life for all.

When I review programs and initiatives concerning women and girls within the frameworks of the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, I see that all of them build upon partnerships between public authorities, NGOs and locale mobilization. These partnership networks prove to be most successful: They have, in different ways, involved women, children, men, disabled and minority groups.

I strongly believe in NGOs’ commitments and possibilities to partake in building civil society. I think we have many examples world wide of fruitful partnerships between public authorities and NGOs’ – as to secure, maintain and sustain democracy and well-being for all. My own cabinet very recently presented a White Paper to the Parliament on the role of NGOs in the Norwegian society based upon my party’s vision: All should be included.

We have not yet reached all the objectives in the Human Rights’ declarations when it comes to women, girls, disabled and minority groups. We have not yet been totally successful in the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Integration policies, visible and invisible, securing the minorities’ feeling of inclusion and antidiscrimination are of great importance.

Knowing the future challenges, how can we sum up; pick the best of practices and lessons learned, and gain systematic insights and knowledge to launch even better actions in the future?

In my view the major challenges for a future policy which include all are:

•  mainstream an inclusion policy to make use of all available human capacities and resources  in any society, involving all levels of administration
• to create new alliances and involve boys and men in the work for a more inclusive and non-discriminative society, with a specific purpose to empower women and girls
• to secure financial support for non-governmental organisations working for the inclusion of all, in public and political life. Thus create ability to develop common strategies between authorities and the general public
• eradicate violence against women and children, Government must commit themselves!
• fight trafficking in women and children and make better use of the international legal instruments agreed upon
• secure reproductive health for women and girls
• fight HIV and AIDS and other sexually transferable diseases through adequate information and openness, along with treatment and tolerance

I know this conference will discuss some of the future challenges and how to use even better experiences from the program Women Can Do It (WCDI). 

I am confident that I will use the inspiration I got here in Belgrade today in my work in Norway: Even if Norway is in the forefront, we need to continue our work at home, and I will for example start a cooperation with the Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Ms. Pedersen.

We need to find and explore new avenues for developing our societies; based upon the ideas of democracy, fairness, equality and human rights, fundamental needs of any country. I cite a most remarkable woman, Eleanor Roosevelt: “ It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Thank you for your attention.

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