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Historical archive

Statement at London Summit on Family Planning

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

London, 11 July 2012

- I grew up under a table in different meetingrooms, following my mother in her work in the womens front in Norway. At a very early age, I learnt to be silent when grown up women talked, Minister of International Development Heikki Holmås said in his statement at the London Summit on Family Planning.

I grew up under a table in different meetingrooms, following my mother in her work in the womens front in Norway. At a very early age, I learnt to be silent when grown up women talked.

Two issues they discussed:

  1. Womens right to make decisions concerning her own body and pregnency.
  2. The right of every woman to have the same opportunities as men in the society, to education and to work.

I just spoke to my mother Ingebjørg Monsen and she told me to say thank you - from her to Melinda Gates and David Cameron - for giving us an opportunity to discuss both of these issues today.

Heikki Holmås på talerstolen i London

Minister of International Development Heikki Holmås during his statement at the London Summit on Family Planning 11 July. (Photo: Ragnhild H. Simenstad, MFA)

Womens rights speaks to my heart, obviously due to my upbringing, but let me tell you why. This morning, I arrived from South Sudan. Being the youngest country in the world - it is also the most dangerous country for a women to give birth. For every 7.th birth a mother dies. In South Sudan the women told me the same as their sisters I met in Niger earlier this year. In Niger every second girl is married and have a child upon the age of 15, and 85% cannot read or write. They want their children to have the education they them selves never had, because they were mothers instead of pupils and students. Having met these women it makes me angry that conservative religious forces work against the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

Its our obligation to fight alongside these girls and women so they have their right to decide.

But - when the "right of women" touches my heart, it doesnt touch the brain of the financial ministers. And we need them aboard to mobilize commitment. Let me tell you the story of Norway.

A hundred years ago Norway was among Europe’s poorest nations. Our transition to becoming a rich country has several explanations, fair income distribution is important, but key is the mobilisation of all our people particular through the empowerment and participation of women.

Today, three out of four women are employed in the labour market in Norway, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Since the early 1970s when I was born, women have doubled the pool of women working for wages. They have created new jobs and generated tax revenue, enabling us to continue to invest in welfare and opportunities for all.

Many know that we are rich becaus of oil. But listen. If women in Norway had participated as little as the average in the developed countries, we would lose a fortune equal to the value of our oil fund and all the oil in the ground.

We achieved this by policies that let women decide, policies to give women equal opportunities, to education, to child care and to work.

If you do not have oil - your fortune lies in family planning, education and equal opportunities for women. If you do have oil. Well thats not a good excuse for having stupid policies.

The work of the partnership we are forging today will be guided by the forthcoming recommendations of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan and my Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. I'm happy to say that Norway intends to more than double our support over the next eight year for family planning and provide an additional 200 million UDS over the period 2013 through 2020.

My mother worked for the rights and opportunities of women in Norway.

From her the message to you:

  • Listen to your heart and use your brain.
  • Let women have the right to decide.

Thank you.


More pictures from the Summit.

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