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Statement delivered by H.E. Ms. Karen Ellemann, Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation, at Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 61th Session under the general discussion of agenda item 3, 15 March 2017

15.03.2017  16:47

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Mister Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Less than two years ago, the world leaders unanimously adopted the Global Sustainable Development goals in this assembly hall. These goals set out our common course towards global sustainable development in 2030.
This included a global goal for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. I believe that SDG5 on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is a vital starting point for our work for promoting gender equality worldwide. And the Beijing Platform for Action is an important building block on our way towards implementation.

But political ambitions and action plans alone do not deliver. We need to maintain a clear focus – globally and nationally – on the obstacles towards realizing the full potential of girls and women worldwide.

The headline for this year’s CSW is women’s empowerment and participation in the labour market. Under this umbrella we can discuss everything from education and discrimination to gender based violence and equal pay. These are all important issues, which we continuously need to address nationally and globally.

Let me highlight a few of the main obstacles to realizing SDG5 on a global scale.

Women can only make use of their full potential if we eliminate all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

And women can only make use of their full potential if they can exercise their right to have control over their own bodies. It also works the other way around. Women’s economic empowerment is an important prerequisite for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Globally almost 225 million women and girls have an unmet need for contraception. Every day over 800 women and girls die from preventable causes related to pregnancy or child birth. Annually 22 million unsafe abortions occur and two million girls under 15 become mothers.

It goes without saying, that a woman, who has no control over the number of children she gets is seriously hindered in finishing an education and maintaining decent work.

We have everything to gain and nothing to lose from ensuring women’s empowerment and access to the labour market.  According to a study done by McKinsey, global GDP could be increased by 26 % by 2025 if women were to get full equality to that of men. Which society can afford to leave women and girls behind?

Mister Chair,

Based on Denmark’s experience, I would like to offer a few concrete suggestions on how to promote women’s equal opportunities in the labor market:

Firstly, political decision-makers have to ensure that the sufficient institutional framework is in place for women to be able to join the work force. This includes affordable day care, equal pay for equal work, flexible work hours, and labour protection of pregnant women, access to decision making procedures and protection from discriminatory practices.

Secondly, we need to work systematically to promote the best possible use of all individuals’ talents and resources. We still face a gender segregated education system and labour market. Or put differently; we need to break down barriers and pave the way for girls in science and technology and boys in teaching and caregiving.

Thirdly, we need to ensure more equitable access to assets and services as land, water, technology, innovation, credit, banking and financial services. This will contribute to empowering women, increase agricultural productivity, reduce hunger and promote economic growth.

Lastly, we need to acknowledge working women to a larger extent than we do today. Around the world, women spend two to ten times more time on unpaid care work than men. In a range of sectors, there is still in a gender pay gap. This unequal distribution of caring responsibilities is linked to discriminatory social institutions and stereotypes on gender roles.

Let me underline, that this is not a fight for women by women. This is a fight for equal rights and opportunities for all individuals. Men and boys must be engaged as agents of change in achieving gender equality.

Our fight for women’s and girls’ rights and for gender equality is not – and should never become – a fight against men and boys. Gender equality is not a zero sum game. On this matter, 1 and 1 equals 3. In fact men and boys are our most important partners and allies in this struggle. 

Mister Chair,

Denmark’s support for women’s rights and gender equality is strong and part of our DNA. This is top of our agenda in Denmark’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 to 2021. We commit ourselves to work for a world where men and women enjoy the same rights and opportunities. The protection and promotion of rights of women and girls are a central element in our candidacy. We believe that human rights are universal and must be enjoyed without discrimination. We hope you all will support our candidacy.

In conclusion - let us send a strong message from this session of the CSW in support of the rights and empowerment of the world’s women and girls. And let us work together to make it a reality for all. Denmark stands ready to deliver for the world’s girls and women.

Thank you.