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Key note address by Danish Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities and Minister for Nordic Cooperation, Ms Eva Kjer Hansen, in the Human Rights Council’s annual debate on women’s rights

22.06.2018  14:11

38th session of the Human Rights Council

Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women
Panel 2: Advancing women’s rights in the economic sphere through access and participation in information and communication technologies (ICTs)

22 June 10.00-12.00

Key note address by:
Danish Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities
 and Minister for Nordic Cooperation,
Ms Eva Kjer Hansen

[Check against delivery]
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
During the last few centuries, significant progress has been made in women’s rights. 300 years ago, a Russian law forbade forced marriages. Even serfs could no longer be forced to marry against their will. Some 200 years ago, women were allowed to own property in the United States. 
Exactly one hundred years ago in my own country, Denmark, women were elected to the Parliament for the first time. During the last century, women’s right to vote, to study and to work have taken root, they have grown and spread, and across the globe, man’s unalienable rights are becoming women’s unalienable rights too. This is true also for women’s right to live their lives the way they want to, for women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
Most recently, a major step was taken, when Ireland chose to legalize abortion.   Human self-understanding changes with time, and so also human consciousness deepens. What was considered unnatural or unnecessary decades or centuries ago may be considered both necessary and natural today. So is the case with women’s rights. While women’s rights have evolved only slowly, the development in Information and Communication Technology is moving faster than man can really fathom.
The development presents us all with new opportunities, but with new opportunities come new dangers – also for gender equality. 200 million fewer women are online than men - and the gap is widening.
Enhancing women’s and girls’ access to and use of information and communication technology can help close the digital gender gap and empower women to take leadership of their own life and claim their rights. World Economic Forum estimates that no less than 90% of all future jobs will require ICT skills. This is why girls and women need to be part of this fast-growing sector.
Governments and enterprises need to be more proactive in increasing girls’ engagement in science, technology and mathematics. Women and girls have enormous potential waiting to be unleashed for the benefit of themselves, their families and societies. Thus, more women and girls in information and communication can become a pathway for progress on United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal No. 5: to “achieve gender equality and empower all girls and women.”
The Danish Government has launched a new initiative focusing on the opportunities and challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. We call it TechPlomacy. As a part of this initiative, the Danish Government wishes to engage with development partners. The goal is to act as catalysts for bridging the digital gender divide.
Earlier this year, Denmark launched the “African Girls Can Code Initiative” together with UN Women, the International Telecommunications Union and the African Union. One objective of the initiative is to conduct boot camps all over Africa to equip young African girls with digital literacy and coding skills. I believe that cooperation is key. Both abroad and home.
In the Danish government we are working with the IT sector and with educational institutions to break down the barriers. The IT University in Copenhagen tripled the number female students in software development in two years simply by reshaping and rewording their advertising and information materials. This is a great example for others to follow.
Closing the gender gap in information and communication technology will lead to a better future for women worldwide. The future starts today, not tomorrow, and we have to close the gap now.
Thank you.