Speech/statement | Date: 20/03/2010
UN COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN 1 – 12 MARCH 2010 UN – commemoration of the International Women’s Day Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all Beijing + 15: the Unfinished Agenda
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Secretary General, Ms Meng Xiaosi,
Today is a time to embrace victories and progress.
But also a time for renewing our wows and goals - and taking courageous steps to reach them.
History tells us the stories of courageous women paving the way for gender equality as a basic human right.
In the course of the French Revolution Mme Olympe de Gouges had the courage to speak of human rights as not only rights for men.
She was executed.
100 years ago Clara Zetkin, a German socialist and feminist, founded the International Womens Day on a socialist women’s congress in Copenhagen. Partly a result of women’s struggle for the right to vote.
Two ordinary women with extraordinary capacity as makers of history. Two among the great many who broke new ground, often with their lives at stake. We remember the suffragettes, the rebellions, those who served as beacons of hope for millions who have followed.
Today we stand on a solid body of law and policy.
The international society, each and every member state of the UN, is committed legally and politically.
But regretfully, true gender equality is not a reality in any country, even if we can look back on major achievements.
Our world is very unequal when the question is equality.
Empowerment of women
UN reports show us the dimensions:
Empowerment of women and girls contribute substantially to economic growth in a country.
Countries not allowing girls the same opportunities as boys are poorer than other countries. These countries will slow down their growth and development until they really empower girls and women and back such policy change with adequate funding.
No enduring solution to society’s most threatening social, economic and political problems can be found without the full participation, and the full empowerment of women.
Empowerment is a prerequisite for development.
That simple and yet that complex.
Over the 15 years since we adopted the Beijing platform, women and girls around the world have made progress. More girls have access to education, and more women are participating in the work-force and economic decisionmaking.
But there is no room for complacency.
My point is;
if we neglect the need to empower women,
and disregard the rights of women and girls,
we pay for that neglect by weakening our countries economic performance.
We may be unequal in our development, but the solution for all of us lies in greater equality.
Violence against women
We have been challenged as to define the challenges ahead.
I would like to take this opportunity to address the devastating issue of violence against women.
A disgrace that persists regardless of national boundaries, regardless of ethnicity and regardless of wealth.
According to the World Health Organization every third woman in the world is exposed to some form of violence during her lifetime.
Violence, incest, rape, forced marriage, genital mutilation, trafficking, assault and murder are some of the horrid actions we are faced to combat.
Violence against women is an extreme form of suppression of women in society today.
As long as it persists, we can never reach full gender equality.
Not in the North – and not in the South.
We have to join forces internationally, but also take action on a national level.
The Norwegian government’s view is clear. Domestic violence is unacceptable. It must be prevented, combated and alleviated through measures to both help and protect the victims. The perpetrators must be prosecuted and – not least - treated.
In Norway we have taken important steps over the last years to improve the situation of women and children exposed to and affected by domestic violence:
- We have used law enforcement measures and penal codes to underline the seriousness of such violence
- By earmarking police resources we have ensured that the police give these cases higher priority
- We are continually striving to develop measures to protect the victims in more efficient ways
- Every municipality in Norway has a legal obligation to provide a service to protect and aid victims of domestic violence and trafficking
- We have established programs offering treatment for men and boys as perpetrators.
And of course: All use of violence is prohibited by law in Norway.
I would like to commend the Secretary General for the ongoing initiatives of the United Nations in this respect. The UNITE campaign to end violence against women is a vital campaign joining international forces and setting clear goals.
As our Secretary-General has stated emphatically:
“Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable”
The right for each and everyone to live a life free from violence is a basic human right.
We must call for nothing less than an upgrade of our civilization.