Statement by Minister Hautala at Forum of the UN Women in Rio de Janeiro

Statement by Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala at Women Leaders’ Forum on the Future Women Forum: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for Sustainable Development. The Forum took place in in Rio de Janeiro, 19 June 2012.

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Madam President

Gender equality is a precondition for advancing all three pillars of sustainable development; namely social, environmental and economic. Development efforts should mirror the interlinkages between the three dimensions. The three pillars are integral in the Finnish Government’s new White Paper on development policy which is guided by a human rights based approach.

Globally, 187 countries have signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women or CEDAW which includes a continuous and comprehensive review mechanism. Yet, CEDAW is also a convention with one of the largest number of reservations, mostly on article 16, which guarantees women’s rights within marriage and family. Removing these reservations is a critical step in putting in place a legal framework that supports women’s rights.

But a legal framework is not enough.

In Finland we know that gender equality cannot be attained without economic empowerment of women and women´s access to justice.

Women’s land ownership, land use and access to land are all the more important questions as agriculture is becoming more and more dominated by women with men migrating in search of employment. Joint ownership of women and men in land registration is a new phenomenon piloted in many developing address the issue.

Alhtough progress has been made on legislation regarding women´s inheritance and ownership rights, implementation is lagging behind. On average, women hold only 15 percent of land titles in countries where data is available.

We need indicators to measure women’s economic empowerment. Indicators can be applied on two levels: on the level of measuring women´s economic power, participation in the economy and decision-making, and on the level of measuring progress of women´s economic empowerment, i.e. new skills, access to new markets and increased income.

Traditionally, female entrepreneurs in developing countries serve the low-income groups, but evidence shows that women are increasingly and successfully expanding into local, national and international markets. They just need support in full and equal participation through the removal of social and institutional obstacles,hindering them from fully realising their potential which is significant not only for women themselves but for the entire national economies.

Finland is in the process of preparing its new Aid for Trade Action Plan. Gender equality and women’s economic opportunities and entrepreneurship will be one of the main objectives of the plan. We believe gender-sensitive policies are one of the most efficient ways of supporting developing countries to advance and benefit from trade.

Madam President,

Women play a vital role in the use, management and conservation of natural resources while faced with the challenges of climate change and the depletion of natural resources. Forestry is one example and a traditional focus area of Finland’s development cooperation which could vastly empower rural women, if properly utilised within the forestry and land use planning sectors by increasing access to women’s land ownership and inheritance. As climate change will inevitably continue to affect humanity, safeguarding women’s rights and the human rights of peoples whose lives are most adversely affected is of utmost importance.

Finland has supported the Global Gender and Climate Alliance in efforts to include women in climate change negotiation processes. A particularly important tool has been the Women Delegates Fund, which has allowed women delegates from developing countries to take part in climate change negotiation processes.
Women need to be part of decision-making processes worldwide, at local, national, regional and international level. We are supporting women’s political participation in our development projects, and we are also supporting exchange visits of women parliamentarians between Finland and other countries.

Madam President,

Underpinning our efforts in advancing gender equality and women’s rights towards sustainable development is education. We know that education influences the decisions made by adolescent girls. We know from our own experience the vital role an educated workforce plays for the development of society. Worldwide, great advances have been made in enrolling girls and boys into primary school. The challenge lies in keeping girls in school and preparing them for future challenges, some small, some huge, such as learning life skills and most of all, preparing girls for taking up leadership positions.

While talking about education, we cannot forget the importance of health, especially women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We are delighted that our former President Tarja Halonen is co-chairing the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development, ICPD, Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

In conclusion, Madam President, let me extend Finland´s sincere appreciation for UN Women for facilitating this event. Finland is a staunch supporter of UN Women´s work in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and the leading role of the Entity in the coordination of gender issues within the UN.

Thank you.