Anna Hedhs tal på FNs kvinnokonferens
I have been a Member of the European Parliament since 2004 and since then worked with gender equality and human rights. Since elected I have had the opportunity to see the shift in the debates regarding gender equality and women?s rights. In the beginning, it was almost impossible to have a proper debate on the topic without being interrupted or not simply taken seriously. Over the years, my engaged colleagues and myself continued our struggle and today we can see the results. Today it is easier and we are taken seriously, even though the resistance towards equality is still strong, the European Parliament is finally increasing its efforts.
During this year I will lead the work for increasing women?s economic empowerment in the European Parliament. Within the frame of the committee for gender equality, I am currently drafting a report entitled ?Women?s Economic Empowerment in the Private and Public Sectors in the EU?. When working for gender equality the current economic situation must be a priority in our work. Still today, women suffer from economic dependency hindering women to fulfil their rights and experience basic freedom. Increased economic empowerment would result in a spill-over effect which would ensure a better life and emancipate women from stereotypes and structures currently holding us back.
About a year ago I was also engaged in the preparation in deciding the priorities for EU for the decision on Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. I was very glad seeing that gender equality was both a stand-alone goal but also mainstreamed throughout the different fields. When striving towards our ambitions it is crucial to guarantee the participation of women in all fields and to make sure that women?s rights are seen as the opportunity and benefit it is.
The world is constantly changing and our societies are progressing around us. Unfortunately the progress are sometimes moving backwards, reaching for times we all wished to never have to experience again. As we are here, discussing the ways forward focusing on increasing women?s rights and gender equality, we must also take the rise of populism and far-right groups into consideration. We?ve seen it in the US and in Europe recently, where dark forces are suddenly a big part of our daily life trying to sneak into politics. We hear the lies, we see their ambitions and we definitely feel the cold winds blowing in their steps.
Wherever far-right parties of fascism is on the rise, gender equality is one of their first topics they wish to demolish. Women and other groups or minorities are constantly under attack and we can never forget to always keep fighting. The rights we have won should never be taken for granted. Instead women and gender equality must be the counterpart in the fight against populism and fascism, it?s within our struggle the way forward lies. It is equality which can show people that the answer is not to polarize the society but to come together instead.
Even though we see the rise of populism and fascism all over the world we also see the massive movements reacting to this threat. I believe that we might see a new women?s movement, where women once again are marching the streets to never agree upon attempts to infringe their rights. This gives me hope and the assurance of the strength we have, especially if we organise.
Our strength is a force to be recognised and we must bring it everywhere we go, even if it is in school, at our work, on the streets or into politics. It is in our absence that the populists and fascists grow and we shall never give them the void to do so.
The road ahead will not be easy, but it has never been easy for us. Unfortunately, nothing will happen if we do not continue to fight, to organise ourselves and always put pressure. I am here today, as a Member of the European Parliament, which should be leading and breaking ground for equality. However, I am also here as a feminist, a socialist and as someone who will never stop fighting for equality.
In my work it is my duty to keep working for political change. Over the years I have realised that the way forward does not have a single solution, instead we must understand the interlinked obstacles facing us and adopt an intersectional perspective for the future.
That means that there is no single legislation or one solution that will solve the inequality. There are too many obstacles, inter-linked with each other, holding us back. One way to increased economic empowerment is to increase female labour participation, but we must also make sure that increased labour participation is done in a fair way. We must demand the right to full time jobs, equal pay for equal work and to fight the glass ceiling, holding women back.
We do so by not only demanding legislation but by also fight the different structures and stereotypes keeping women in the informal household sector. Legislation cannot solve everything but it can definitely be a prerequisite for changing our society. I believe that legislation should always make sure to not only have legal impacts but also normative effects on the society. By adopting legislation, you, as a politician have the opportunity to change people?s interpretation of the world.
As a politician, my suggestions for improvements contain; increasing female participation in the labour market, fighting gender stereotypes and sexual harassments, adequate childcare and care for elders, mandatory gender quotas, wage-mapping as to increase visibility and adoption of gender equality plans in both the public and private sector.
As a feminist and socialist, I advocate a continuous struggle, to raise awareness and to organise. When the development is slow, we have to be even stronger and louder in our demands.
The world today is rather small and we most certainly need each other. The European Parliament has the opportunity to be innovative in the field of gender equality. However, we need the rest of the world as much as they need us. Gender equality does not have boarders; it cannot be achieved in one place if women are suffering somewhere else.
That is why this meeting in New York is of high importance, this is where we can come together to gather strength, exchange suggestions and engage in cooperation across the globe. I have already experienced the potential in these meetings, the will power to increase the efforts and ambitions for the future.
I believe the time is soon up for me and I would like to finish my short speech by thanking all participants, not only in this room but also during the entire CSW. It gives me great hope to see how we together can reach a better world for all of us. Gender equality is not only about women?s rights, it is a struggle and a movement that will increase the quality of life for everyone, which is something we have to remind ourselves and everyone else of. Thank you.