Mr. President, dear colleagues,
Let me start by congratulating Ms Gjermeni for this excellent report on “Enhancing participation of women from under-represented groups in political and public decision-making”. I had the honor to participate in her virtual fact-finding visit to Finland last year and I was impressed by the program and the discussions.
The group of women discussed in this report face a double hurdle to participation. Not only do they belong to a minority or an under-represented group, but they are also women, who unfortunately still today must fight for their equal rights in society. I would like to focus my intervention especially on young women as this is a group, that is often overlooked when it comes to active involvement in decision-making.
Young women are not a homogenous group by any means. In addition to being young and female, they can also belong to ethnic, sexual and linguistic minorities. Yet, the spark for participation is often born at a young age. However, without proper structures and opportunities this spark may fade, and a voice is lost in our pluralistic democracies. I agree with the rapporteur that society at large and political parties in particular need to make space for women’s active participation and engagement.
In the last few years, Finland has been lauded for its young female leadership. It would not have been possible without the hard work and strong dedication of these young women. But it has also required efforts by both men and women to remove the hurdles to participation and to build an equal society, where it is safe for women to be in visible positions, without fear of harassment, sexist remarks and hate speech. Building equal societies starts already in schools: I believe that if we foster a tolerant and inclusive atmosphere from an early age, we will gain a lot in the future.
“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world” said Hillary Clinton. What a waste of talent, competence and money it is to close the door on women, to let prejudice prevail over reason and to give room for intimidation and hate speech. Young women need female role models to show that they can achieve whatever they want. Let us judge our leaders on their ability to lead and the decisions they make, not on how they look, their age, sex or sexual identity or the color of their skin. What matters in the end is what we do, not who does it.