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Statement delivered by Karen Ellemann, Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation, at 6th ECOSOC Youth Forum, Interactive Roundtable on “The role of youth in poverty eradication and promoting prosperity”, 30 January 2017.

31.01.2017  18:48

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©UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

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Thank you Chair, Ministers, excellences, participants,

Thanks to ECOSOC for organizing this highly important event.

Involving youth is key to creating a sustainable future. Policies are far too often developed within the same circles and by the same “old” people. But the future is not only ours – it belongs to the youth and they need to be part of the discussions - as targets of public policies as well as actors of public policies.

They are the key to future development, prosperity and well-being of our societies.

I am truly honoured by the question put to me by the Chair.

Yes, Denmark has indeed come a long way in regards to achieving a gender equal society. And honestly – allow me to put it very simple. The recipe is clear and simple: We have the same rights. That is why we have equal opportunities! And equal responsibilities. But does that mean that we have no problems at all when it comes to gender equality? No, not at all.

We still face many challenges in Denmark as well as on a global level. Domestic violence continues to be a serious problem, which cannot be tolerated in any form. Negative social control and honour related crimes amongst is another serious barrier for many women around the world, and we must intensify our efforts to promote equal opportunities for women in order to eliminate this hidden control.

One of the most horrendous violations of women and girls’ freedom is the lack of the full enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights. This issue has been at the centre of attention for many years, and I can assure you all here today, that Denmark will continue to push for these rights until all women and girls around the globe can decide freely over their own body.

We will also continue efforts to promote equal access to education.

In Denmark, women’s right to education has been essential for the empowerment of women. And especially after 1995 girls and women have improved their qualifications to a degree where women today are better educated than men. Last year, 56 percent of all new students enrolled in higher education were women.

These developments have improved women’s opportunities on the labour market - not least their career opportunities.

When women in large numbers joined the labour market in the late sixties, it created a win-win situation; The economy boomed and women became economically independent from their spouse. Economically you cannot win if half the team is on the bench!

Now, women and men are almost equally available for the labour market - 72 percent women and 76 percent men.

A result of the high participation rate of women at the labour market has been a change in the division of domestic chores, including an increase in men as caregivers. This has changed the role of men in society. And today men and women are seen as important agents of change for promoting gender equality for both sexes. But in order for men to be able to fully participate as fathers we need parental and paternity leave schemes.

The struggle for gender equality has had an enormous impact on young girls’ and boys’ lives. It has been good for women, good for the economy and good for our democracy – this is my first point.

This brings me to my second point: To obtain political change and progress, you must engage civil society actors and partners outside the established political system.

The Danish Government truly emphasizes the importance of working closely with and coordinating all relevant policies with civil society actors – not least young people’s organizations. By so doing, we ensure cohesion, progress, ownership, responsability and common values in society.
The Danish process towards gender equality has been driven by several actors. One of the key actors has been and still is the women’s movement. They have continuously struggled to promote women’s rights and ensure a society with equal opportunities and non-discrimination.

I can assure you Chair, that the Danish Government will continue to strive for a truly equal society where every boy and girl, woman and man can live the life they wish making full use of their competences regardless of their gender.

We are running for a seat in the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2019-2021. Equal rights and opportunities for women and men is one of our priorities. If we succeed, we will continue this effort also in the Human Rights Council.

I am delighted to attend today. To be inspired by others on how to further progress on our journey.

In conclusion, let me emphasize that we support the inclusion of youth in achieving the SDG’s. It is a political priority of the Danish government.

I believe that young women and men can make a profound difference through action at the local level. I believe that these efforts can create a momentum in support of these goals at the global level. Young men and women constitute a huge potential as agents of positive change.

Thank you.