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Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN: Current Affairs: Statements

United Nations, New York

Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN
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Speeches, 3/7/2013

A Girl’s right to Learn without Fear: Working to End Gender Based Violence at School

Plan International, United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) and 10 x 10.
Satement by Minister Paavo Arhinmäki
5.3.2013 18.00-20.00
UNICEF House, Danny Kaye Conference Room, New York


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, around 66 million girls are denied their right to an education. Education and gender equality areintertwined: not only is education a critical path to gender equality and women’s empowerment, but gender equality and women’s empowerment are critical pathways for girls’ education. We can no longer neglect the education, well-being, and intellectual advancement of half the human race.

Neither can we neglect the pressing need for a safe and supportive school environment for the girls that have access to education, which is a human right. Providing a safe learning environment free form violence is vital. We are gathered here tonight to discuss a girl’s right to learn without fear with a common objective to end gender-based violence at school. The issue is ever pressing and vital. Last week we heard yet another disturbing piece of news as a 7-year-old girl was sexually assaulted at a school in India. We need to work together to ensure that a girl’s right to a safe education is realized all around the world.

The report launched today puts forward a global framework to address gender-based violence related to schools. This event brings together different kinds of partners -- governments, non-governmental organizations, international organizations and private sector partners.

There is no country in this world that is free of gender based violence at school. We have some saddening statistics on this issue in Finland. The first step to creating quality educational experiences is providing access. If education for girls is not equitable then academic learning is compromised and the psychological empowerment that education can confer is greatly reduced. It is imperative that girls stay in schools and remain safe to complete their education. The classroom must be a secure place of learning. I also refer to safety on school surroundings and the way to and from school.

In Finland we have study courses on preventing violence. We have developed learning materials to support education for adolescents on sexual rights and safety skills. The contents is designed to cover the following areas: gender equality, bodily integrity, respect for sexual self-determination, sexual and gender diversity, media criticism, the identification of sexual violence and harassment and intimate partner violence, seeking help in situations of violence and the obligation of others to intervene in violence and provide assistance.

Let me finish by saying that we have clearly come to a turning point in relation to gender based violence. Social media has made us aware of the most revolting violations of girls’ rights all around the world. Not a single country is yet free from gender based violence, but each country has an obligation to remedy its current failures. Let us start in schools! Pre-schools and schools need to be places of learning and empowerment, starting today!

And now I invite Sarah Hendriks to lead the panel discussion.

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Updated 3/7/2013

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