Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's speech at the International Gender Equality Prize ceremony in Tampere
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to welcome you to the ceremony of the International Gender Equality Prize.
- Tampere is a natural choice to co-host this event. Throughout its history, it has had a strong tradition in gender equality and women’s participation in society. Just last year I was here as well participating in an event on that core value, where we also published this Prize.
At that event, I got a challenge from a young and active girl named Katariina. In the autumn, we were hosting an international campaign “girls take over”. Katariina was shadowing me over the course of a day learning about the work of a prime minister. During the day, we were making the public aware of issues related to the rights of girls, climate change and sustainable development.
For me personally equality between men and women has always been a important value and self evident, in business life and also in politics.
As a younger man, I once run a company with four employees for about ten years. We all had same salary – from the secretary to the general manager. Equal pay was really equal in this company.
From political side, I have an example more up to date: The biggest ever reform to be made in the Finnish history is regional government, social and health-care reform. This huge task is being run by two female ministers. One of them is present also in this seminar, namely minister Annika Saarikko.
The Government of Finland decided to establish the International Gender Equality Prize as a part Finland’s centenary celebrations of 2017. The aim of the prize is to promote equality between men and women around the world, to support international discussions and encourage action on equality.
Gender equality is one of the core values of our society. Finland was also the first country to grant full political rights to women in 1906. It can be said that improving this equality has been a firm policy throughout our independence and important to our success.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Government of Finland decided to award this first International Gender Equality Prize to Doctor Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany.
It was my great honour to announce this together with Chancellor Merkel in December in Brussels.
Chancellor Merkel has shown that women can reach even the highest positions of leadership. She is a strong role model for women and girls around the world.
This prize is in recognition of Chancellor Merkel’s long-standing work as a defender of human rights and human dignity, her commitment to promoting the rights of women and girls globally and her work to bring gender equality to the agenda of world leaders.
The prize includes a monetary element of 150,000 euros which can be assigned to a cause that promotes gender equality. Chancellor Merkel will announce the cause she has chosen in her video greeting in a few minutes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is a good time to discuss the issues of equality between men and women. Not only in view of the widespread discussions that the MeToo campaign has raised, but also because of the widening gaps in society involving the lack of this equality.
Because of gender inequality, half of the population have diffuculties of participation in societal development. In the worst case, it can lead to violence and mistreatment of women and girls because of their gender.
Violence against women and girls is a serious human rights violation. It stems from unequal social norms and exists in all societies. Unfortunately, it is a problem that also exists in Finland. It is estimated one in three women experience violence during their lifetime. This is absolutely not acceptable.
Providing women and girls with equal opportunities and access to decision-making is a way to build an innovative and active society. Working together, equally, is the only way to make societies successful.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The International Gender Equality Prize has raised great interest at home and abroad. The independent jury deciding on the prize received almost 400 proposals from 74 countries and 75 per cent of the proposals came from abroad.
Everybody has a stake in promoting successful equality between men and women. We can only succeed if we work together as nations, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and individuals. I would like to thank all of you for making this prize a reality and this event possible. The International Gender Equality Prize will be awarded for the second time in 2019.
I hope this event is a success. I am sure that we will have an open and constructive discussion in the panel.