The Elders

Gro Harlem BrundtlandDear friends,

Have girls and women achieved equality in your country?

This is a question I recently had to answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (despite my natural instinct, as a former politician, to give a much longer answer!). In the end, unfortunately, I had to say no.

My view was in the minority; many Norwegian women feel that we have in fact achieved equality. But while I am proud that Norway is a leader on gender equality – indeed, we have just celebrated 100 years of women’s right to vote – women are still underrepresented in several areas, not least within the business sector, and as leaders.

As I said to UK parliamentarians last month, we cannot take our achievements for granted. 65 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some countries are trying to override basic commitments to women’s rights in the name of ‘culture’ or ‘national sovereignty’. Globally, we are still struggling to change the social norms that keep women ‘in their place’ and perpetuate gender-based violence.

No, we have not yet achieved equality.

I believe we will get there, but only if we keep up the pressure and push for women’s rights to stay on the agenda. We have to campaign, advocate, call for changes to the law, hold our governments to account. Most of all, we have to challenge systemic discrimination wherever we experience it – whether in our governments and institutions, in our schools and communities, or in our own families.

When we look back 65 years, or 100 years, we recognise and celebrate important milestones towards women’s equality. When our grandchildren and great-grandchildren look back on the achievements of our generation, let us be sure we have given them something to celebrate.

Best wishes,

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland signature

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