Esteemed Mme Ambassador of Tunisia, Sarra Chaouani Abidi,
It is with great appreciation to have the opportunity to bring a greeting on behalf of the National Council of Women of Finland – and the whole women’s movement in Finland, as well as to congratulate both Tunisia and Finland for this special day of the 60 years diplomatic relationship.
The National Council of Women of Finland, founded in 1911 by the first female parliamentarians in the world, is an umbrella organization for 60 women’s organizations with over 400 000 members, 20 per cent of all women of Finland. 12 of the member organizations have been established more than a 100 years ago and 27 of them more than 75 years ago.
We are an active advocate of women’s rights, women’s human rights and gender equality and effectively linked into the Finnish society. The European Women’s Lobby and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women are important international platforms and lead our work further. The women’s movement has a central role to play and gender equality is regarded a key success factor for our society.
It was my great pleasure to participate in the important Tunis Forum on Gender Equality held in Tunis last April, a conference which gathered 600 participants from 70 countries. The conference was organized by the government of Tunisia, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), UN Women and UNDP. The Tunis Forum partly prepared goals for the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women’s rights and gender equality. The Forum was a follow up to the Stockholm Forum on Gender Equality held one year earlier.
One of the main aims of the Tunis Forum was to include young women to implementation of the objectives of the Beijing Platform, to listen to the young women, and especially to support young women’s participation to political decision-making. Furthermore, women, peace and security, sexual and reproductive health and rights and online violence were on the agenda of the conference.
Current situation about the global backlash in gender equality, actual peace process and negotiations were raised in the speeches. The Forum was largely visible in the Tunisian media, especially the speech held by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.
The wide participation of women of North Africa and Middle East was remarkable. In addition, it was especially important that the voice of women from the war zones in Syria, Yemen and Libya was herd. As well as, it was remarkable that 40 per cent of the participants of the Tunis Forum were under 35 years old. Also a common resolution was adopted at the end of the Forum.
Tunisia has a long and impressive history of promoting women’s rights. Women were officially considered as equal with men with full political rights in 1957. In the past few years democracy and human rights have advanced dramatically. The legislative package of combating violence against women was adopted in 2017. Parental leave reform has lately been prepared in Tunisia.
Like the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Margot Wallström pointed out in the Tunis Forum, almost half of the local administration in Tunisia are women. She also stated the following: “At this moment we have a wide distribution to introversion and openness. There is nothing mysterious about gender equality. We need to gain the three goals: Rights, representation and resources. Gender equality is not an issue of women but an issue of humanity. Gender equality equals peace. It is lifeblood of democracy and human rights. Societies with gender equality are wealthier and better educated. We need to increase women’s economical rights. The rights of girls must be stronger, and they must have right to education, sexual and reproductive health rights and the right to decide of their own bodies.”
In Finland we have a strong women’s movement and a close cooperation with politicians, as well as with the ministries in charge in order to promote women’s rights and gender equality. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Gender Gap Index report ranks Finland the world’s fourth best gender-equal country. However, statistics do not necessarily mean that gender equality in all sectors of society has been achieved.
Finland’s parliamentary election was held last April and the results were, in our perspective, delightful. For the first time 47 per cent women were elected as Members of Parliament and there are more women than ever as chairs in the Parliamentary Committees. Furthermore, in the newly established government 11 out of 18 ministers are women including 6 female ministers under 35 years old. The National Council of Women has lobbied actively and we are pleased to tell that gender equality has been strongly taken into account in the new government program. And for the first time ever, Finland has proposed a woman for the position of the EU commissioner.
The National Council of Women of Finland has together with over 40 NGO’s has prepared a parallel report of +25 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The comprehensive report includes the measures done for women’s and girls’ rights and what still needs to be accomplished in Finland. The report will be published on 3rd of October in the House of Municipalities in Helsinki in a seminar organized by the National Council of Women together with the Ministry of Social Welfare and Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. +25 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is a special theme in the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in the UN Headquarters, as well as in the Global Forum organised in France and Mexico in 2020.
With these words I have the pleasure to thank the Madame Ambassador for excellent cooperation and to wish every success to the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights in our countries, as well as fruitful diplomatic relations of Tunisia and Finland in the future.