The importance of Gender Equality for Social and Economic Development

Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim's address at the conference Gender Matters.

Dear ministers, colleagues and friends!

I am very pleased to be here in person to open the conference “Gender Matters”, organized by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Norwegian embassy.

The purpose of the conference is to place gender equality and women’s economic participation on the agenda in the cooperation between our two countries in fisheries and petroleum.

Achieving gender equality is critical to our future, to our children’s future.

Women’s rights is a basic human right, but gender equality is also smart economics. We simply have no choice:

We cannot meet the challenges our world is currently facing in food security, conflict and climate change, without the full and equal participation of women and men, girls and boys.

For example, closing agricultural gender gaps globally can economically empower women and support food production.

Women’s employment can be a central driver of inclusive growth. On average across countries, long-run GDP per capita would be almost 20% higher if gender employment gaps were closed.

Still, women lag behind men in terms of employment opportunities, wage gaps and in terms of which jobs women take.

This pushes women toward lower productivity jobs. Labor force participation is around 53% for women vs. 80% for men globally.

In certain sectors such as agriculture, studies show that women lack access to productive resources and assets, such as land, seeds, fertilizers, which reduces productivity and earnings. This also the case for rural women in Colombia according to a recent World Bank report.

Across the globe, women tend to be overrepresented in work under unacceptable conditions and women in vulnerable situations are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and exclusion.

In Colombia, gender gaps persist, especially in rural areas

In Colombia only 6 out of 10 women work. And young women in Colombia have twice the likelihood of men of having their education disrupted and not being in employment, due to homely care activities (33%/14%).

Women spend three times longer on unpaid care work than men at a global level. This has increased during COVID-19.

This care burden does not affect women’s employment only, but also adolescent girls’ education.  One in five girls reported having too many chores to be able to learn.

With the demographic challenge with an aging population in Colombia - like the one we have in Norway - you need all your hands on deck.

Which again requires consistent work to achieve equal opportunities for women and girls, men and boys in all sectors.

We cannot afford to miss out on girls’ and boys’ education. Education, and in particular quality education,  has a value in and for itself, to every individual, and it also leads to other development outcomes.

Discrimination and gender inequality does not pay off. It has been estimated that the potential losses over long term due to gender gaps in Colombia’s labour market amount to 17,6% in gross income per capita by a recent World Bank report.

Strengthening women's rights and opportunities is therefore important in itself, and with a view to unlock the potential women pose for economic value creation in all sectors including in fisheries, agriculture petroleum and energy.

We acknowledge the special history and the challenges that lies ahead in Colombia considering the operationalization of the peace agreement and in negotiating further peace.

It is our understanding that a new National Action Plan for Women Peace and Security (NAP WPS) is planned.

We would like to emphasize the importance of involving women in all stages, and in seeing the linkages between the implementation of this plan and long-term development efforts related to gender equality and women’s economic participation.

Today in this Conference we will share the Norwegian experience of increasing women’s participation in the labour force since the 1970s.

The Norwegian welfare state is a product of long-term policies, tripartite dialogue between  parties and political commitment to increase women’s participation in the labour force and thereby the GDP in Norway.

But still, several gender gap challenges remain in Norway, and in particular in the two sectors we discuss here today: petroleum and fisheries.

Norwegian female fishers are few and tell a different story than male fishers and require a different interventions.

Similarly, in the petroleum sector, Norway has taken important strides towards equal opportunities, but still, the share of female engineers is only 25%.

Women and men can have unique perspectives on problem solving and problem understanding, and work places with both genders working together can benefit from more innovation and value creation. 

We will hear more about this as the conference unfolds.

Colombia and Norway have different contexts, histories and challenges. There is a lot to be learned from each other.

I look forward to learn from gender experiences across sectors and countries and I am sure we all will gain new insights from today’s exchanges that we can take forward.

For sure, Gender Equality Matters!


El discurso en español (the address in Spanish)