A combination of political will and the Nordic welfare model has propelled the Nordic countries along the path towards gender equality but many challenges remain, including violence against women, stereotyping and the pay gap. The equality ministers presented the results and the challenges still faced by gender-equality policy to delegates from all over the world at a Nordic fringe event at the UN on Tuesday March 2.
Video: Nordic ministers at 54th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW54)
"The welfare state has been one of the key reasons why the Nordic Region has made progress towards gender equality," the Norwegian Minister for Gendr Equality, Audun Bjørlo Lysbakken, told the UN on Tuesday. "It has allowed women to combine family and work."
Asked by a Mexican delegate whether gender equality is also possible in developing countries the minister gave a straight answer
"It's no use sitting back and waiting for the culture to change. Gender equality requires political will,"Lysbakken said. He also stressed that gender equality is an investment in the future and a prerequisite for economic growth.
His Icelandic counterpart, Árni Páll Árnason, concurred and identified legislation as the key first step on the road to equality. He described the Icelandic model for parental leave, which allows parents to decide how they split the time off work, as one of the most important results since the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995.
"It has allowed men to assume greater responsibility for the family and the home," said Árnason, who listed the pay gap as the next big issue to be confronted.
Another major challenge – in the Nordic Region and in the rest of world – is violence against women. The Swedish minister, Nyamko Sabuni, presented her government's Action Plan for combating violence against women, and said that gender equality will never truly be reached until this problem is eradicated.
Stereotypical ideas about gender when it comes to choosing education, training and jobs also need to be done away with. The Finnish minister, Stefan Wallin, emphasised that work on changing these attitudes needs to start at a very young age. He cited the need to take a close look at how gender roles are presented in school books as a prime example.
"What makes Nordic co-operation so fruitful is that we share the same goals but not always the same methods," said Kira Appell, Senior Adviser to the Danish Minister for Gender Equality. "We compare with each other and learn from each others' methods."
Appell added that addressing the gender divide in the education sector and on the labour market is an important theme in Danish gender-quality policy.
The Nordic fringe event was held as part of he 54th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW54) in the UN Building in New York, 1-12 March. Delegates from all over the world flocked to the fringe event to hear about work on gender equality in the Nordic Region, which is considered to be a role model.
CSW54 marks the 15th anniversary of the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women Beijing 1995, which provided the world with a framework for progress towards gender equality.