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Speech at the high-level symposium on women’s rights in Afghanistan

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First lady Rula Ghani,
Prime Minister Erna Solberg,
dear women of Afghanistan,
friends and colleagues;
ladies and gentlemen.

 

  • For the first time ever, Afghanistan has seen a democratic transfer of power.
  • For the first time, an incumbent leader stood aside peacefully, as the new President was sworn in.
  • And for the first time, Afghanistan was introduced to its First Lady.
  • Congratulations, First Lady Rula Ghani.
  • Congratulations, women and men of Afghanistan.
  • These are truly, important steps forward for all.
  • This is a critical juncture for the people of Afghanistan.
  • A time for action.
  • A time for change.
  • And change is needed.
  • Afghanistan is still one of the ten poorest countries in the world.
  • Decades of warfare have left 2 million dead. 700 000 widows and orphans.
    Millions of Afghan refugees.
  • The human rights situation gives cause for great concern.
  • The security situation is precarious.
  • Every day, schoolgirls and women in public life are exposed to threats and violence. 
    Sexual Violence. Honour killings.
  • Far too often, the perpetrators enjoy impunity.
  • Women still face discrimination in all areas: At home, in the health care system, at school, at
    work, and in politics and culture.
  • Life for women and girls is more difficult in Afghanistan than almost anywhere else in the world.
  • We still have a long way to go.
  • Yet, there has been significant progress.
  • Having seen the women in this audience, having heard your strong voices, and looking back at my visit in Kabul recently,
  • I feel hopeful that the progress will continue:
  • In 2001, Afghanistan had less than 500 health care facilities in operation.
    Today there are more than 2 000.
  • 60 % of the population now lives within a one-hour walking distance of a health care centre. And the results are readily evident:
    Life expectancy for women has increased from 44 years in 2001 to 64 years today.
    Maternal mortality has dropped by 80 %.
  • Ten years ago, less than one million children in Afghanistan attended school.
    Almost none of them were girls. Today, nine million children attend school, and 41 % of them are girls.
  • These numbers should encourage us.
  • All of this could signal the start of a new era.
  • But we cannot take progress for granted. This is why we are here.
  • We know that even sustaining the progress that has been made, will require effort.
  • Peace is paramount. War is profoundly destructive.
  • If there is no peace, there is little progress.
  • Therefore, we need to focus on reconciliation efforts and inclusive peace processes.
  • Good governance and rule of law are pillars of a thriving society.
  • Politicians must be held accountable.
    Impunity must be fought.
    Corruption must end.
  • Sima Samar, who is here today, recently stated:“No peace, no development, no progress without women.” And you are right, Sima.
  • Peace is not sustainable when only the needs of half the population are taken into account.  
  • I know that many of you who are here today, work tirelessly to bring about change.  
  • Norway will remain your committed partner.
  • We will stand by the Unity government and the civil society.
  • We will remain a major contributor to Afghanistan.
  • Education for girls, women’s rights and equal opportunities are our main priorities.
  • We will do our part. Yet, the role of the international community is limited. You play all the leading roles.
  • As we meet today in Oslo, following up on last year’s very important gathering at Georgetown University – and looking ahead to the London meeting in two weeks, we know and understand that our role is to support your endeavours.
  • We will be listening to you.
  • We will carry your recommendations with us to London and beyond.
  • We will continue to be your partner, fighting for a brighter and safer future for the young women and men of Afghanistan.
  • Thank you.
 

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