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Prime Minister Sipilä’s speech at the gender equality festival in Tampere

Government Communications Department
Publication date 8.3.2017 10.50

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Hyvät naiset ja herrat, tytöt ja pojat,
Mina damer och herrar,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish you all a very festive International Women's Day!

It is a great honour for me to be taking part in this great celebration of gender equality. I’m very pleased to see such a big crowd of great young people here in Tampere Hall and by webcast across the whole of Finland.

We have just seen an excellent documentary about the history of gender equality in Finland. We really have been a world-class trailblazer in gender equality. The fact that Finland granted full political rights to women in 1906, even before becoming an independent nation, is truly amazing. It sowed the seeds of economic and social developments that have since brought us the benefits we are now reaping in this country. As the documentary testified, this work has demanded courage and determination as well as problem-solving skills. It has demanded a democracy that is powerful. It has demanded that men, too, grasp the meaning of equality. 

It is a wonderful thing that a young Finnish woman such as Katariina can say: ‘I haven’t given equality any thought, because I feel I’m on a par with boys.’ This is exactly how it should be. But it is equally important for Finnish women to be able to say the same thing later in life, too. This is where we still have work to do, for instance in relation to equal pay and glass ceilings at work. And at the same time, we must keep our eyes open in terms of other questions related to equality, such as the social exclusion of boys. 

We also need more women in decision-making positions in society. I was therefore very pleased with the challenge Katariina presented and I’ll gladly take it up. Plan International’s ”Girls Takeover” is a brilliant initiative.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind you that one the official projects for Finland’s centenary celebrations is in fact called ‘100 acts for gender equality’. Just before Christmas, a ministerial colleague of mine, Timo Soini, asked me to take up the challenge of joining this campaign, to do a concrete thing for gender equality. I now bring in my contribution to this campaign by further challenging my fellow Prime Ministers around the world to take part in the Girls Takeover initiative. I am absolutely convinced that the world would be a better place if there were more women in decision-making positions. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must work tirelessly for gender equality. And while today, 8 March, is a special day of celebration, the most important thing is that we live in and run a society that is equal every day of the year, 365 days a year. And it is not just women who should be doing this - it is equally important for us men to work just as hard for gender equality.

Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Finnish society. But it is also a cornerstone of global development. There are too many girls in this world who even to this day cannot attend school. There are too many women whose word is not heard in their society. There are too many women who are denied the right to decide what they want to do in life and with their bodies. 

Stale tones of voice about women’s rights and gender equality have re-emerged in a very worrying way in western societies, too. In its wake, we also risk forgetting the girls and women in countries far afield, who are the ones in direst need of our support. 

In this situation, we in Finland need to ask ourselves: who are we, what do we believe in and what are we prepared to do about it. We have set the ball rolling now. Just last week, my colleague, Minister Kai Mykkänen, announced that Finland will be allocating an extra 20 million euros to help promote sexual and procreative health and rights in developing countries. This is about supporting fundamental human rights.

And more will follow.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finland is celebrating 100 years of independence this year. Gender equality is one of the basic pillars of our society. We have been world pioneers in equality. And international debate on gender equality desperately needs advocates and supporters right now.

I am therefore both pleased and proud to announce that Finland is again ready to lead the way in global gender equality. We are today establishing the International Gender Equality Prize. We will grant this first award to a dedicated defender and builder of equality later this year. In the spirit of Finland’s Jubilee year, the foundation for the prize will be built Together – for we believe in the power of crowdsourcing and gladly welcome suggestions for candidates for the first  the prize.

I hope that this great festive day will convey Finland’s message to all girls and women, as well as boys and men, all over the globe: equality can be achieved in all societies, all over the world.

Thank you.