CSW60: Nordic Council of Ministers

Statement by Minister Solveig Horne on the CSW60 side-event on Women's empowerment and the Sustainable Developement Goals: Education is key, 16 March 2016.

| Commission on the Status of Women

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Thank you,

It was a historic moment in September last year when the United Nations agreed on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

At this moment, when war, violent extremism, climate crisis and refugee flows set the political agenda, the world's states managed to agree on a common way forward. • It is a global commitment to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. • It is a global commitment to strengthen women's rights and position. • And it is a global commitment towards recognizing fully women's role in development.

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 to achieve gender equality and fulfil the sustainable development goals (SDGs), quality education for all must be an obvious foundation for our work.

Education is a human right. And, like other human rights, it cannot be taken for granted. Across the world, almost 60 million children and 65 million adolescents are out of school. More than 120 million children do not complete primary education.

Behind these figures there are children and youth being denied not only a right, but also opportunities of a future. • A future where they have a fair chance to get a decent job • A future where they can escape poverty • And a future where they can contribute to the development of their communities. Goal number 4, ensuring quality education for all, is a main priority for Norway.

The set goal is for all girls and boys to complete a free and good secondary education. It is also to provide all women and men with affordable and quality education, including university. The challenge is daunting . Many of those who remain out of school are the hardest to reach. They live in countries that are held back by poverty, conflict, disaster, and epidemics.

With the adoption of the SDGs we have pledged to leave nobody behind. Vulnerable groups like children and youth with disabilities must be reached. Nevertheless, we can succeed. Over the last 15 years, governments and their partners have shown that if there is political will and concerted efforts we can deliver tremendous results. The number of children who are out of school has been halved. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to finish what we started.

In today's knowledge-driven economies, access to quality education and the chances for development are two sides of the same coin. This is why we must invest more in education, and at the same time improve quality and learning outcomes at all levels. That is what goal number four (4) aims to do.

In many countries the number of girls continuing and completing secondary and higher education is much lower than for boys. In Norway, we see the opposite. It is the boys who drop out of school not finishing their secondary education. And for more than 30 years women count for the majority of students in higher education, also in subjects like medicine and law.

However, there are more male students in math and engenieering. That's why the Norwegian government support projects pinning girls in this direction.

In the world as such, we must ensure that girls are in school when they reach puberty, and that they are allowed to complete education on the same footing as boys. This is not just a question of fairness; it is sound economics.

Communities and countries that succeed in achieving gender parity in education will gain substantial benefits relating to health, equality, and job creation. To succeed, we must ensure a holistic approach in addressing the reasons why girls are kept out of school. This has to do with overcoming discriminating attitudes and structures in the society, which enables the persistence of negative practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.

Young people all over the world, including LGBT-persons and persons with disabilities, need comprehensive education to learn about their own sexuality.

This is a sensitive and controversial issue, but we cannot ignore the consequences of illegal and unsafe abortions on women's health and lives. We can never accept that religion and so-called traditional values are used as an excuse to deprive women of their rights.

Sexual rights and the right to abortion is central to give women and girls control over their own bodies and lives. And we know that with education women and girls are mothers at a later stage and to fewer children.

We need to intensify efforts to bring the poorest and hardest to reach children into the education system. Education is a right for everyone. It is a right for girls, just as it is for boys. It is a right for children with disabilities. It is a right for the 37 million out-of-school children and youth in countries affected by crises and conflicts.

Education is a right regardless of where you are born and where you grow up. It is time to ensure that the right is upheld. All countries, regardless of their national wealth, stand to gain from more and better education.

Securing education for all will cost. Do we have the political will to make this investment? For the first time in history, we are in the unique position to provide education opportunities for all. We cannot miss this opportunity.

To be sure, the responsibility for providing citizens with quality education, rests – first and foremost – with national governments. Aid cannot replace domestic resource mobilization. But donor countries also have an important role to play, especially in supporting least-developed countries. For our part, we are in the process of doubling Norway's financial contribution to education.

Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude:

Education is the most important investment we can make to empower girls and women, whether in Norway, Pakistan or in the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

If you are to understand and enjoy all your rights, education is crucial. It is the key to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and ending poverty.

Education helps girls – and boys – make the right choices for their future.

Thank you.