Gender Equality for Sustainable Development

Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the European Development Days in Brussels, 5 June 2018.

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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased that this year’s European Development Days are devoted to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Gender equality is crucial for every country and every society in the world.

Moreover, it is a precondition for sustainable development.

There is a space reserved on the garbage heap of history for discrimination of women and girls.

It belongs there along with racism and slavery.

For governments, gender equality is not a policy option – it is a human right.

For sustainable development, gender equality is the smartest tool available.

Who doesn’t want to be on the right side – and the smart side – of history?

Women’s full and equal participation in all aspects of life benefits society as a whole.

It drives economic growth and sustainable development.

Failure to promote women’s participation in paid work is wasting half of humanity’s skills and capacity.

No country can justify or afford that.

However, we still live in a world where women find it difficult to enter the labour market, the business sector and politics.

A world where women have less control over resources than men do.

Where women have a greater workload in the family than men do.

We must get rid of all the factors that restrict women’s participation in the economic sphere.

These include restrictions on women’s property rights and access to finance.

It is time to move from rhetoric to concrete policies.

Quality education for all girls and boys is crucial if women are to hold political and economic power on an equal footing with men.

This is why my Government has made girls’ education a top priority in our development cooperation.

A normative battle is being waged in the area of women’s reproductive rights.

This agenda has also come under threat when it comes to funding.

To help fill this funding gap, Norway is increasing its support for health aspects of women’s reproductive rights by NOK 700 million between now and 2020.

Sadly, we live in a world where violence against women is still an issue in every country.

Men must be part of the solution. They too must speak out against all forms of violence against women everywhere.

Norway has moved quite rapidly from poverty to prosperity.

Gender equality has been an essential part of this progress.

Among the most important factors in Norway’s economic development are affordable childcare and generous parental leave schemes.

These measures have made it possible for both mothers and fathers to work.

Of course, these schemes are costly – but they are also among the most profitable investments available for society as a whole.

Women have changed politics in Norway.

What were once considered women’s issues are now part of the mainstream political agenda.

Today, male politicians also promote gender equality in the sectors they are engaged in.

If we want equality between women and men in the family and in work life, we must strengthen the role of fathers. 

Male ministers in my Government make use of their right to parental leave when they become fathers.

I expect nothing less from them.

We are happy to share our experience in this field with other interested countries. We have therefore launched a new gender equality for development programme called ‘LIKE’, which aims to do just that.

That said, like all other countries, Norway still has a lot of work to do to achieve SDG 5 on gender equality.

At the same time, we also need to remember that the world today is ridden with conflicts.

Women’s contributions are essential for building resilience, for preventing and resolving conflicts, and for sustaining peace. 

There is a clear obligation rooted in UN Security Council resolutions when it comes women’s participation in peace and security matters.

There are many positive trends.

We see that girls across the world are speaking up against outdated gender roles that hold them back.

There is also growing awareness that all societies need to employ the best heads and hands in their development process – regardless of gender.

In conclusion – gender equality is the way forward.

Again, this is not an option.

It is grounded in human rights and in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

There can be no excuse for not achieving gender equality by 2030.

Thank you.