Women's rights and gender equality

The aim of Norway's work for gender equality is to increase the opportunities available to women and girls, promote their right to self-determination and further their empowerment. This is crucial if all girls and boys, women and men are to have equal rights and equal opportunities.

The global situation for gender equality is characterized by contradictions and paradoxes. On the one hand, opposition to the rights of women and queer people is growing in some countries and regions. On the other hand, there is a growing trend towards gender equality, as the targeted efforts of authorities and women's own battle for their rights are providing better opportunities for women to participate in society at all levels on an equal footing with men. At the core of the contradictions are ideologies that view gender equality as a threat to the institution of the family, as well as pressure to preserve traditional gender roles, and the fight for the right to decide over one's own body and sexuality.

Girls' and women's living conditions are more likely than men's to be characterized by poverty, lack of property rights and limited access to health services, food and schooling. Women and girls are more vulnerable to violence and child marriage, and they are exposed to female genital mutilation and unwanted pregnancies. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced inequalities between women and men. Across the world, domestic violence increased, affecting women in particular. Climate change and conflicts may contribute to exacerbating gender equality, as women and men in many contexts have unequal access to resources and opportunities to influence the political agenda.

Respect for human rights is at the heart of the Government's international commitment to women's rights and gender equality.  "A just World is a Gender Equal World. Action Plan for Women's Rights and Gender Equality in Norway's Foreign and Development Policy (2023-2030)"

is based on the action plan from the UN Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995, the Population Conference in Cairo in 1994, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 on gender equality. Gender equality must be taken into account in all aspects of foreign and development policy.

The action plan is based on the premise that gender equality is a human right and that promoting the rights of women and queer people will contribute to social change. It has an inclusive approach that takes into account that women are not a uniform group but can be discriminated against on various grounds such as disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

 The action plan has the following main objectives:

  1. Everyone has the right and opportunity to decide over their own body
  2. Everyone has the right and opportunity to live their lives free from violence and harmful practices
  3. Everyone has equal economic rights and opportunities to participate in working life
  4. Everyone has equal political rights and opportunities to participate in public life
  5. Everyone has the right and opportunity to participate in efforts to promote climate, energy and food security

We have a specific target figure for gender equality in our development aid: Half of all bilateral aid must have gender equality as a main or sub-goal. The aim is better aid results - for everyone.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)

Access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is under pressure in many countries. The Government is working actively to safeguard the results and progress already achieved and to protect established norms and rights from setbacks. 

The Government's international gender equality work prioritises women's and queer people's right to decide over their own bodies. The Government is working to establish new alliances and increase support for comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, contraception and safe abortion.  Supporting international efforts to combat gender-based violence is also an important priority.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are crucial to women's freedom, power and opportunities. When women cannot decide over their own bodies, it affects their schooling, work lives and ability to participation in society. This is why sexuality education, access to contraception, the right to safe abortion and freedom from violence and harmful practices are fundamental in the fight for gender equality.

The right to decide over one's own body and sexuality is a controversial issue in many countries. Pressure on women's and queers' rights in general, and sexual and reproductive health and rights in particular, is increasing. Certain countries that were formerly allies and like-minded in the fight for SRHR are now working to undermine global norms in the field. Norway is actively working to defend rights that were achieved decades ago. Setbacks will have major ramifications for the lives and health of girls and women.

International efforts to promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights are also part of the Government's Action Plan for Gender and Sexuality Diversity (2023-2026). The action plan includes measures for Norway's international engagement. Dialogue and cooperation with queer people and their organisations are central to Norway's efforts at country level and globally.

Harmful practices affect girls

Harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation are among the most serious forms of discrimination against girls. 33,000 girls are married off every day. Every year four million girls are subjected to female genital mutilation.

Norway is working to combat harmful practices through two main tracks. One is to strengthen aid through relevant global programs under the auspices of the UN, as well as to integrate the measures to combat harmful practices into the aid activities on education, health, gender equality and human rights. The second track is to strengthen Norway's role as a driving force in combating harmful practices in international arenas where norms and guidelines are established.

Women, peace and security

Women, peace and security is a key part of Norway's efforts for peace and security. Norway follows up its obligations under UN resolution 1325 through broad inter-ministerial cooperation involving six ministries. The Government's Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security (2023-2030) is Norway’s fifth plan. It stipulates targeted efforts in several areas where Norway has a particular opportunity to promote women's peace and security work internationally. Such areas include peace and reconciliation work, work on protection, humanitarian efforts, human rights, as well as gender perspectives and women's participation in the security sector. The plan also reflects that the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda is becoming increasingly important also in our own preparedness and security work. Read more here.