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In September last year, the world adopted the "2030 Agenda" - with the ambitious sustainable development goals - the SDGs. Gender equality is not only a stand-alone goal, it is key to achieving other goals. When given full and equal access to resources and opportunities, and when being part of decision-making, women will be driving development forward.
In order for women to participate in decision-making, civil society is key.
Civil society and the private sector have made valuable contributions in developing the SDGs. I am confident that they will continue being important partners in our work to achieve the development goals towards 2030.
As minister, I am often impressed by the effort done by volunteers. You open doors for others. You fight for people that are struggling. Some of you challenge authorities on behalf of different groups. You all add value to our society through your work. Voluntary work is the glue in many local communities.
In Norway – the women's rights movement has been a critical counterpart for the Government for a long time.
I regularly meet with representatives from civil society and organizations. One of the women I have met with several times is Havva, an immigrant woman in Norway. She is a volunteer for the Norwegian Trekking Association. She engage and include other immigrant women in outdoors activities such as hiking and skiing. They form networks, practice Norwegian language and spend time out side. This is valuable for both the women and the society.
The organizations and the volunteers also play a great role on the international arena. On the international women's day last year I met Elizabeth from Malawi and Trial from Zimbabwe.
They represented SOS Children's villages. Both girls dropped out of school too early. With the help of local networks and scholarships, they are now back finishing their education. Their wish is to work and be self-employed and by the help of NGOs they hopefully will succeed.
The Norwegian Government fully recognize the value of voluntary work. On UN's International Volunteer Day in 2014, the Norwegian government published our declaration on voluntary work.
This declaration establishes a framework for dialogue and interaction between the voluntary sector and the government. Voluntary work is crucial in almost every sphere of society. Voluntary work is simply the foundation of a good society.
In order to improve rights for women and girls, we need the brave voices of the volunteers. You fight for women's rights both globally and locally. Without you, it's hard to continuing working for equal rights and opportunities for all.
We need you in our work to reach the "2030 Agenda" - with the ambitious sustainable development goals.