Minister Solheim is presented with a torch, which represents a commitment to “doing something extra”. More than 100 torches will travel around the world mobilising efforts to promote the empowerment of women in the run-up to the UN high-level MDG meeting in September 2008.
The World Bank has recently alerted the world to the fact that most countries will not achieve the MDGs by 2015. The prospects for the targets on reduced child and maternal mortality are particularly poor.
“There has been far too little international focus on the empowerment of women. Economic independence is essential for women’s liberation and gender equality. When women have the opportunity to get an education and a job, this has a positive effect on their own and their children’s health, the number of children they have, and the opportunity for their children to attend school. So empowering women is not just a goal in itself, it is essential for several of the MDGs,” Minister Solheim said.
Mr. Solheim is taking part in the MDG3 Champion Network that seeks to increase global attention to UN Millennium Development Goal no. 3 and the crucial role of the economic empowerment of women. The network is led by the Danish Minister of Development Cooperation, Ulla Tørnæs and will also campaign for greater investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment in developing countries.
Today, more than 20 countries have labour laws that prevent women from enjoying the same economic freedom as men. In several countries, married women must have their husband’s permission to start their own business.
“There are significant challenges involved in increasing women’s participation in the formal labour market, access to income and credit and the right to inheritance and property. National authorities have a major responsibility for ensuring women’s rights and participation, but we also need to work with the private sector. Norwegian companies also need to do more to promote gender equality in their international activities. And we must identify more opportunities for public-private partnerships, for example in connection with microcredit,” said Mr. Solheim.