Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s media speech on International Day of the Girl
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year marks 100 years of independence in Finland. Equality – equal participation in society for both women and girls – is a core value for us in Finland. It is one of the cornerstones of our centennial nation.
Finland was the first country in the world to grant women full political rights. Throughout Finland's history women have played an active role both in political decision making and in working life. But we still have work to do. The division of working life into male and female occupations is still strong. We must endeavour to narrow down this division. Children and young people should be encouraged to keep an open mind when choosing, based on their skills, the preferred fields of study. Girls should be given more encouragement to choose fields such as science and technology. And there is great demand for boys in fields such as early childhood education and in the health and care sectors.
One of the projects launched during Finland’s jubilee year is in fact the 100 Acts for Gender Equality project. I was extremely pleased when Katariina presented me with the Girls Takeover challenge, and was keen to take part in it. So were many leaders in Finnish society and around the world. I’m convinced that greater female participation in decision making would make our world a better place.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finland has become a leading edge nation in equality. Now it is those around the world who are in a weak position who need our support and knowhow. Equality is one of the key building blocks in global development. Too many girls still have no power to make decisions involving their own lives. And still to this day there are too many children who receive no education at all, and girls are in a particularly poor position in this respect. This is an important question, as education creates a solid base for building an independent life.
Helping to improve the position of women and girls is also one of the main priorities in Finnish development policy. It is also part of the objectives in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Climate change means that extreme weather conditions will occur more frequently than before. The countries affected are often those that are already poor to start with and their ability to adjust to the effects of climate change is limited. Drought and floods threaten food production and access to clean water. In these places girls are often the first to get no food, shelter or healthcare. That is why climate change also incorporates the question of children’s rights.
This is something that must be taken seriously. The EU should further strengthen its role in mitigating climate change. EU Member States should be more active in taking concrete action together. Emissions must be reduced to the target level agreed in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Sustainable development is something that binds people across generations.
One way that Finland is working to promote international dialogue in equality is that the Finnish Government introduced an International Gender Equality Prize in celebration of Finland’s 100 years of independence. It is awarded to a distinguished advocate and defender of equality. The first recipient will be revealed later this autumn.
It is a great pleasure to take part in the Girls Takeover campaign. I’m sure the day will bring new perspectives to both my own work and that of many other decision-makers.