Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I would like to thank the co-organizers for joining forces behind this important event.
A special word of thanks to the faith-based organizations. There is power in religion and faith. Religious leaders can have a tremendous influence. Your fight for women’s rights and human dignity makes a difference.
We appreciate the collaboration coordinated by UNFPA, and their efforts to ensure that the voices of faith based leaders’ for human rights are heard and taken into account.
The Norwegian government is a strong defender of human rights.
Freedom of religion or belief is an empowering right, also empowering women. Our fundamental aim is to increase the opportunities available to women and girls, to promote their right to self-determination and further their empowerment.
I would like to commend the important work done by many organizations present here today, in promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls worldwide.
Everyone should be able to decide freely on matters regarding their own body and sexuality.
However, too many adolescent girls and young women around the world are denied these rights. Norway is and will remain a staunch supporter of everyone’s right to make decisions over their own body.
Freedom of religion and belief is a priority for Norway, and we have increased our funding in this area over the past years.
Freedom of religion and belief is a central part of the universal declaration of Human Rights, which constitutes a cornerstone of our foreign- and development policy.
However, we do not accept limiting the rights and freedom of others in the name of any religion or culture. To quote my own Prime Minister: “We must not accept the use of tradition, culture or religion to deny or scale back women’s human rights. Some people believe that there is a contradiction between believing in God and believing in gender equality. This is not the case”.
We must have the courage to challenge and change traditions when and if they violate people’s rights, health and well-being. We must dare to have an open and knowledge-based conversation about the need for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
For Norway, access to Sexual and Reproductive health and rights is a priority. It can help us make giant strides toward reaching the sustainable development goals. We all know the gains in investing in girls’ education. Protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescent girls is crucial for keeping them in school.
Norway and Denmark have now jointly launched a project to see how we can advance gender equality and religious freedom within the framework of the SDGs. We look forward to sharing our findings when it is completed.
Norway looks forward to deepening our relationship with the many important actors gathered here today that are working to advance the rights of girls and women, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, and continue our cooperation on this very important topic.