Statement by H. E. Ms. Annika Saarikko, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, at the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 13 March 2018
Madam Chairperson, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finland aligns herself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union.
There is one factor above all that I see as the key to realizing the rights of women and girls. That is education. I am convinced by this because of my own family history, which is typical for Finland. The opportunities I have had, to study at university and now to even serve as a minister, are light years away from those available to my grandmothers, who were both farmers. In Finland, a political choice was made to make quality education available for all, as a way to bring about equality between girls and boys, rich and poor, rural and urban communities.
In Finland it young women in increasing numbers are moving to the cities to study and work. In many countries the situation is reversed, and it is the men who are leaving to find work. This gender imbalance causes a number of social problems. We have a common goal to develop our rural areas so that no one has to migrate only for economic reasons.
In developing countries, rural women play a key role in food and nutrition security. However, women often have limited access to land, water and other productive resources and assets. One solution to revitalize the rural economy and provision of basic services in rural areas is digitalisation and ICT. As we are developing and creating these services we must consult women and girls.
In Finland participation of rural women and girls in local decisionmaking has transformed our rural areas. We should ensure the active, free, meaningful, effective and informed participation of rural women in political and public life. Civil society, including women’s and youth organizations and human rights defenders have a vital role to play in realizing the rights of women and girls, especially the rights of women and girls belonging to the LGBTI community. Civil society should be considered by governments as partners.
For a woman or a girl to be active participant in society, she needs the right and knowledge needed to make decisions concerning her own body, sexuality, and reproductive health. The realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights is essential to enable the empowerment of rural women and girls. Advocating for these rights is a longstanding and central commitment in Finnish foreign policy.
Lastly, I would like to note the shift in the public debate around harassment and violence against women that has been sparked by the #MeToo campaign. I myself spoke out in social media about harassment I have experienced as a politician and the feelings of shame and anger the experience caused. I was also deeply moved by the stories women shared. We must combat all forms of violence against women, including sexual harassment and sexist online hate speech. Only once we are safe, can we ever truly be free. For oppression, harassment and violence – the time is up.
Thank you Mr. /Madam Chairperson