The most valuable asset in any country is the value of its people.
Gender equality is the best investment we make. It drives economic growth. It drives sustainable development. Women's participation in paid work has been decisive for Norway's development from poverty to a blooming economy. Investing in equal education, is the single most effective way of promoting sustainable development. It promotes health and welfare for the next generation. It reduces poverty and slows down population growth.
The girl who goes to school will have fewer children – and have them later in life – than her sister who does not.
Comprehensive sexuality education enables boys and girls to make informed and good life choices.
2019 is a year of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ICPD program of action. This was a ground-breaking document in 1994, and still is today. We see that progress has been made. Yet, women's and girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights are under constant pressure in many parts of the world.
Norway is committed to the right of every girl and woman to decide what to do:
with her body,
with her life, and
with her future.
Youth friendly health services, birth control and safe and legal abortions must be accessible for all.
We all know that abortions occur, but where they are illegal, or restricted, the life and health of the woman is at risk. Not to criminalise abortions should be a minimal response to reality. And is necessary for protecting the life and health of women.
Social protection systems pave the way for gender equality. Failure to promote women's participation in paid work means wasting half of a country's skills, capacity and potential.
Gender equality is not a policy option. It is a human right. Gender equality is the only way forward. Gender equality is an investment. It is time to unite for the empowerment of all girls and women. Including women with disabilities, indigenous women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We must ensure that no girl is left behind.
This is about the future of democracy. Unless we empower all people, educate them, care for their health, allow them to enter economic life on an equal basis – poverty will persist. I assure you that Norway will continue to be a consistent partner delivering on global commitments and seeking solutions for a common future.