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‘We are working hard just to make the development not go backwards.’

The UN will reach its goal of cutting the global rate of extreme poverty in half by 2015. However, the reduction is noted mostly for men. Nordic politicians can play a key role in the work for women’s economic rights, says Gro Lindstad, leader of the Norwegian umbrella organisation FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development.

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‘Since 70 per cent of the world’s poorest are women, efforts to reduce poverty should include a gender equality perspective, says Lindstad. FOKUS and the Nordic committees of UN Women will lead a discussion on future global challenges at their joint seminar at the Nordic Forum in Malmö.

Why are these issues important to the Nordic countries? 

‘The Nordic countries have been forerunners in the struggle for women’s rights. Although we have come a long way we can’t just sit there and be blind to the rest of the world. We need to look at what’s going on around us and keep pushing forward. It’s a matter of international solidarity and of realising that what we have accomplished can in fact be taken away from us.’
Why has the UN not been able to reduce women’s poverty to the same extent as men’s poverty? 
‘The Millennium Development Goals has brought attention to issues that are important to women, such as mortality in childbirth and the right to education. That’s great but not enough. We are seeing a problematic trend in the UN, where countries such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Vatican are forming alliances with an aim to negotiate away women’s rights. Instead of building strategies for the future, we in the international women’s movement are working hard just to make the development not go backwards.’

Which rights are at risk?
‘Primarily the right to decide over one’s own body. Conservative countries are for example challenging the right to abortion, access to birth control and sex education in schools. We have seen discussions about women’s right to decide over their own bodies in the Nordic countries as well. In Norway, there has for example been a discussion about whether doctors should have the right not to refer women who want an abortion to a gynaecologist.’

Are some groups of women particularly vulnerable to poverty?
‘Yes, women without economic freedom. A new study by the World Bank shows that up to 130 countries in the world are limiting women’s economic rights in some way. Older women and women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. It’s important that we remember this when we talk about women’s economic vulnerability. That various forms of discrimination lead to increased vulnerability is something we have to keep in mind in order to understand the whole picture.’

What’s the most important global challenge right now? 

Gro Lindstad. Foto: Privat
 Gro Lindstad. Photo: Private

‘Women must be given the same opportunities to be in charge of their own economy as men. This is a key measure to reduce not only world poverty but also discrimination of women in other areas. The Nordic countries often stress the importance of supporting girls’ education with money, but it’s also important to make sure that they get to complete their education and that they’re not limited by lack of security or sanitation in school. We also have to focus more on ensuring that girls who go to school get a fair chance to participate in the labour market once they get out of there.’


This text is part of the article series Nordic Gender Equality in Practice, which presents the projects granted funding through the Nordic Funding Scheme 2013. The Norwegian umbrella organisation FOKUS and the UN Women’s national committees in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Icelandreceived DKK 150 000. The money will fund their joint seminar during the Nordic Forum in Malmö 12-15 June.

This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

Updated 2 October 2020