On equality between Women and Men - the Nordic Way

Last updated: 3/2/2012 // This statement was delivered by Director General Arni Hole on a Nordic ministerial side event with UN Women on Wednesday 29th of February. The topic was Equality between Women and Men - the Nordic Way.

Mr Chair,

It is a pleasure to speak on behalf of Norway, having the chairmanship of Nordic Council of Ministers this year. 
Today we are discussing basic human rights as a basis for development and sustainable growth.

We need only to look at the statistics of the Human Development report, the World Economic Forum gender report and the World Bank report to find numbers supporting gender equality as one such human rights driving force.
We may disagree on main strategies to develop and achieve a society where men and women are equal. However, no country can reach its potential without empowering all. 
The mandate of UN women is in this respect very challenging.

We have known for decades and seen very clearly these past years:
The greatest needs of women and girls are felt by women and girls, but the demand for UN services and assistance are often articulated by elite men.

They are articulated by men because power in this world is still by and large in the hands of men; economic power, technological power and power over sexuality and reproductive health.

We all agree that UN assistance must be country owned and country driven.

However, in too many countries this still means elite male “owned” and elite male driven. Both in governments, parliaments and in the corporate sector.

This is the challenge. How can we use gender analysis and gender budgeting to include women`s voices in political and negotiating processes ? How to redistribute power ? We have learned some lessons in the Nordic countries.


It takes political struggle initiated by women themselves, assisted and supported by modern men, to break these patterns. And of course, governments and parliaments, the latter being the legislators. Parliaments, legislators, need to be addressed more strongly.

In the Nordic countries the issue of gender equality has been driven forward by strong women`s organizations and courageous individuals, by political parties, by parliaments willing to legislate!
 Today men in rising numbers support that struggle, and the perception is that gender equality is about both gender.
Nordic male politicians are probably not smarter than other male politicians…. or ?  So why have they chosen to support investment in universal social protection measures, education, day care for all children to an affordable price, and gender neutral parental leave as the backbone of our welfare society?
Because they wanted to secure both womens and mens possibilities alike, to balance work and family life. Smart economy indeed!

Any person should have the right to choose both work and family. Not to be forced to choose either/or. Either/or is no real freedom. Freedom is also to be able to live off your salary. And pay taxes back to the common good of the society. And earn your pension points as you go.

In one word: sustainability, also to meet financial crisis the Nordic model give some answers.

The Nordic countries have built a system of policies with strong systemic co-ordination between family policy, social policy, labour marked policy and gender equality policy. Now this is a lesson learned, over the last 30 years.
Close to 80 per cent of Norway`s women are active in the work force. Our birth rate is 1.95 – one of the highest in Europe, not the least thanks to men  taking their fair share of parental responsibility.
Gender parity and equality in fact improve men`s lives!
We have seen tremendous change in the notions of masculinities over the last decade. The introduction of fathers quota in the paid parental leave, the right fathers have to stay at home if their child is sick (10 days a year below 12 years) and full coverage of early child care, are among the drivers in this change!
Still, the countryside of Norway can be perceived as a male culture.
Norway has many and substantial programs for vital areas, some targeting female entrepreneurs and agricultural women specifically. All universal social protection measures are of course available to rural women’s families.
Gender neutral ownership, equal rights to inheritance, equal rights to make financial transactions, are still a distant goal in many countries. This can not endure. Engaging and involving men in power-redistribution and killing off stereotypes are amongst our priority tasks and also for UN Women. Other UN agencies must follow suit in a coherent way.   
Mr Chair, we must discuss technology as a main driver for development and sustainability when discussing  gender equality!! I want to address this to Women !
ICT and educational technology, water and agricultural technology, environmental technology of all sorts, storage technology/processing plants for agricultural products, feeder roads to local and regional markets etc etc.
All this must be a part of gender equality policies – world wide ! We must be accountable in the Rio – outcome.
My final point: Technology does not have a gender, even if it seems like it today.
Technology is power. So: take it!


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