During the inaguration of US President Joe Biden, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman recited a poem that she wrote for America but that moved the entire world. She said: ʽWhen day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?ʼ
COVID-19 has cast a dark shadow on gender equality. It has caused a setback. The gender poverty gap is growing wider. Womenʼs access to sexual and reproductive health and rights has been hampered. Violence against women and girls has escalated.
But we must always look for the light. We must always work for the light. In one of humanityʼs brightest moments, 2400 years ago, we invented democracy. Today, it is the role of a liberal democracy to champion the development and well-being of the individual. Women's participation in decision-making has made Norway a better society for all of us.
If women and girls are to be able to participate in all areas of society, we must ensure access to youth-friendly health services, birth control, and safe and legal abortions.
We must ensure that girls, in all their diversities, have access to leadership experience and good role models. Political empowerment is a continuum that begins in childhood and extends through adolescence into adulthood.
Efforts to increase gender equality and women’s rights to participate in public life and decision-making must include efforts targeted at boys and men. The support and political will of male leaders is vital for accelerating changes to social norms.
In all countries, sexual harassment and gender-based violence pose a threat to womenʼs health and participation in public life. Furthermore, the pandemic has accentuated gender-based digital violence. We need a coordinated international effort to combat gender-based digital violence.
We must ensure that women human rights defenders' safety is protected. Girls are victims of harmful practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and son preference. These practices have fatal consequences for girls, for families and for the well-being of entire countries. They must be eliminated.
We must ensure quality education for all girls. Empowerment through education is the key to paid work and economic independence for the individual, and to economic growth for countries.
Paid work is fundamental to women's empowerment and participation in society. In Norway, cooperation between the social partners and the Government has been crucial in establishing welfare schemes that enable men and women alike to combine paid work and care responsibilities.
Feminist and women's organisations play a vital role in advocating for sustainable and gender-responsive solutions.
Norway calls on all nations to invest in womenʼs full and effective participation at all levels of decision-making in public life. A gender-responsive approach to the COVID-19 recovery must be at the top of our agenda if we are to succeed in our common goal - achieving the SDGs by 2030.
ʽWhere can we find light in this never-ending shade?ʼ
As I see it, we have no choice but to create the light ourselves. I urge us all to step up to this challenge.