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Opening remarks by Minister Virolainen at the SheDecides Breakfast Event

Opening remarks by Anne-Mari Virolainen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development at the SheDecides High Level Ministerial Breakfast Event. Washington, 21 April 2018.

Role of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Economic Development and Women's Empowerment
Dear SheDecides Champions and Friends,

Warm welcome to this breakfast brainstorming meeting.

SheDecides has got a good start in promoting the SRHR agenda. In just one year, SheDecides has grown from an international meeting into a global movement. The Champions have met several times, and the support unit is set up and active. Some necessary governance has been developed. We have lobbied for more funds and advocated our agenda around the world.

Recently, a Guiding Group has been set up to prepare and clarify the messages of our movement. To support this work,  I thought that those of us gathering here in Washington DC, could use the opportunity to brainstorm and reflect on how best should we argue for the SRHR in different contexts.

Many thoughts for the advocacy work are already on the SheDecides website and manifesto. We may also need different arguments in different contexts. It is only natural that Governments, international organizations and NGOs may present our common cause in different language. We can complement each other’s work this way.

One very powerful argument is that the SRHR are a necessary precondition for development: they are needed to improve women’s and girls’ lives, but they are also needed to improve the wellbeing of entire countries and societies. This agenda is about women and girls, but it is also about boys and men. It is about women’s economic empowerment and about economic prospects, health and prosperity for all.

I don’t think it is difficult to find evidence to support this. Women and girls carry with them a tremendous potential for development. Their contribution is needed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

The history of my own country is a story of a fragile developing country turning into an innovative economy and the happiest nation on earth. The contribution of women has been an important part of this narrative.  Maternity and child health clinics were introduced about one hundred years ago, and girls went to school early on.

I propose we first listen to Caren Grown, Senior Director for Gender issues at the World Bank. And then,  emboldened by her thoughts, we could then reflect and exchange views on issues such as:

How can we advance the SRHR agenda in different contexts?

What are the best arguments to explain how the SRHR are a prerequisite for women’s and girls’ education and their economic empowerment, and for the development of their countries?

How should we explain the indispensable link between SRHR and development.

She Decides movement was established in an era when women are actors in the global economy contributing to the economy as workers, entrepreneurs, managers, and leaders. Many things have gone right. – But not for all women and girls.

I believe together we can play an important role on national, regional, and global level in promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights. I hope that his event will equip us all with thoughts and good arguments on the SRHR and development.

Welcome. Caren, the floor is yours.

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