Offentliggjort den 18. marts 2016
Minister, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I’ve been looking very much forward to this event. As a vocal and passionate voice for the empowerment of women and girls and the protection and respect of their human rights, I’m acutely aware of the impact, of this is not being a reality for far too many women and girls around the world – of the impact it has on our efforts to create the future we want for our world.
It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished group of leaders and champions; in government, business, the United Nations, and civil society. A truly international group that reflects the global nature of the common challenges we are facing.
In September last year, the new Sustainable Development Agenda was unanimously adopted by the 193 Member States of the United Nations.
Today, we have 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets that provide the blueprint for the world’s development agenda that will guide us through to 2030.
It is a broad, universal agenda to end poverty, fight inequality and protect the environment, and one could say, this Agenda is the most ambitious in history.
The world has made a promise to make the strongest effort to end poverty, ensure quality education for all, promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels – and that is to name just a few of the Goals.
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations stated, in this respect:
“Governments must take the lead in living up to their pledges. At the same time, I am counting on the private sector to drive success.”
And the Global Goals will be a driving force for opening new markets and creating a better enabling environment for business. And as such, present a wide spectrum of opportunities for visionary companies.
I strongly believe gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will create some of the greatest opportunities of our time.
Women and girls as critical drivers of development have been strongly recognized throughout the Global Goals and more specifically, by Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. And achieving this Goal will make a crucial contribution to progress across all 17 goals. A sustainable world cannot exist if one half of the world’s population continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.
In order to create peaceful, prosperous and sustainable societies women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, health services and information, economic and political participation, as well as equal opportunities for employment, leadership and decision- making at all levels.
And here the private sector has a significant role to play. Private businesses can provide innovation, know-how, technology and expertise in a number of areas that are critical to ensuring sustainable development and finding new solutions.
Many Danish companies are at the forefront of promoting women’s economic empowerment and ensuring the inclusion of women in the workplace – and this is how they also operate when they do business in developing countries.
One example is the Danish company Orana, which has changed the hours in the working week, in order to ensure their employees a better work-life balance. Instead of working late Monday to Saturday, as is the norm in Vietnam, employees at Orana work Monday to Friday, from 7.30am – 4pm. This means that Orana’s employees are able to pick up their children from kindergarten and keep them at home. Whereas many Vietnamese families, with two working parents, have to send their children to live with their grandparents. Initiatives like this make it possible for women to work, and is an important model for the inclusion of women in the labour-force, in a sustainable way. For Orana, the change has resulted in happier and more loyal employees, and ‑ a more effective factory.
Danish companies also contribute to women’s empowerment through their products and services. When Grundfos installs a so-called ‘Water ATM’ in a village, women save hours that were previously used fetching water every day. These saved hours are now often used on income-generating activities that benefit the family. I understand that Grundfos is currently experimenting with new business models that will enable women to make a business out of ‘safe water’ – to become water entrepreneurs, so to speak.
I have witnessed during my travels, that given the opportunity, women in developing countries show an astonishing talent for entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, many women are deprived of the opportunity to start their own business, or they are hindered along the way, for example, by rigid and counterproductive legislation.
In some countries, women are not allowed to start a business or to own land without their husband’s consent. Often, they do not have access to credit to the same degree as their male counterparts, and they are often subjected to unjustified harassment by the authorities.
Gender equality is a basic human right. It is not only the right thing to do, it is also smart economics. It is one of the most important driving forces behind economic growth and the fight against poverty. Let me share just a few very convincing facts.
According to UN Women:
- If women’s paid employment rates were raised to the same level as men’s, 15 major developing economies would experience a rise in per capita income by 14 % by 2020, and 20 % by 2030.
- An analysis of Fortune 500 companies found that those with the greatest representation of women in management positions delivered a total return to shareholders that was 34% higher than for companies with the lowest representation.
- Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children.
- If women had the same access as men to productive assets, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4 %. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17 %, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people.
There is no doubt, that women are a valuable resource. To really make use of this vast unexploited resource, developing countries must improve the opportunities for women to participate in economic activities. When women spend hours every day fetching water, they are effectively kept out of the labour market. When women need their husband's consent in order to formally register a business, they are effectively pushed into the informal economy.
Employment – be it as workers or entrepreneurs – is among the most important links between economic growth and poverty reduction. Yet women’s labor market participation is not increasing in many developing countries. The larger share of women’s employment is in the informal economy and women’s pay is lower than that of men.
We need to identify and implement actions that can secure women better jobs, better entitlements and better capabilities to take advantage of formal and legal opportunities. We must raise the issue of women’s employment higher on the international agenda. Be it women as workers, entrepreneurs, or leaders.
In just two months, Copenhagen will host the largest gathering, for more than a decade, on the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women: Women Deliver Conference 2016, of which I am the proud Patron. The focus of the conference will be on the effective implementation of the Global Goals. The Global Goals hold great promise for girls and women and we must ensure that this promise is delivered upon.
Over 5,000 people from all over the world will participate: Leaders from the public and private sphere, experts and advocates from government, business, academia and civil society will come together to discuss how we may promote girls’ and women’s health, education and economic empowerment.
We need new solutions and new types of partnerships and today’s conference provides an outstanding opportunity to discuss tangible solutions, necessary interventions and innovative partnerships for sustainable development with the potential for replication and scaling.
It is my hope that our time together will be inspiring, comprehensive, and challenging. And provide a platform that we can use in the coming months and years to achieve what really matters: True progress on the economic empowerment of women, which means of course ‑ development for all.
I’ll leave you with what we say in Women Deliver:
“When you invest in girls and women, everybody wins.”