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Madam Chair, colleagues
It is a sad fact that in all societies many girls are subjected to sexual harassment and sometimes violence. Every day, girls are being raped and (in some countries) even denied abortion if pregnancy follows. 39 000 girls under 18 are married every day.
Child, early and forced marriage is violence and abuse. It is unacceptable that this tradition is still widespread in 2016. We must never accept that religion and so-called traditional values are used as an excuse to deprive girls of their rights.
Girls under 18 should not be wives and mothers. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most common causes of death for girls between 15 and 19 years in developing countries.
Girls who are taken out of school to get married have small chances to become financially independent. They have little knowledge of their own rights and often have no other choice than to remain in violent and abusive marriages.
We must end all forms of violence against women. That includes intimate partner violence, marital rape, trafficking in women and female genital mutilation. To this end we must involve men, especially men that has the power to influence change in gender norms. Violent families and societies are also harmful to boys and men.
The 2030 Agenda is of course very ambitious. To succeed in achieving the 17 goals, we must make use of women's resources and talents. Girls and women must have equal access to education, jobs, property and decision-making.
Countries which deny women and girls their rights are denying their countries to prosper. Growth and prosperity rely on taking all resources in use and allow girls and women to participate and contribute to productive work. This shows us that promoting girls' and women's rights is not only the right thing to do – it is indeed smart economics.
Education is fundamental to sustainable development. Education is a key to ensure that women and girls have the knowledge and confidence to decide over their own life. Education is crucial if women are to be able to hold political and economic positions. Education is a way out of poverty. It is why we have put education as a top priority in our development cooperation.
Norway recently launched an action plan for women's rights and gender equality in Norway's foreign and development policy. The plan is a manifestation of our commitment towards gender equality as part and parcel of our foreign policy.
Let me end by saying it is time to deliver on the goal we have set for 2030 to achieve gender equality and empower all girls and women. The most difficult job remains: To reach the most marginalized women. Women who – because they are poor, live in rural areas, belong to ethnic minorities or have disabilities – have not been part of the progress that has taken place in health and education over the past 15 years.
I can assure you that Norway will continue our efforts to ensure that no woman or girl is left behind.