The Ambassador of Finland celebrated this year's International Women's Day in Lagos. She participated a three day programme during 6-8 March 2017, hosted by Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation. The theme of the celebrations was 'Be Bold for Change – Say NO to Domestic Violence & Gender Discrimination'.
Together with the Honorable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation of Lagos State, Mrs. Lola Akande, the Ambassador took part in several meetings with local women, as well as speaking on different occasions about the importance of gender equality, and the need to protect women's rights and to promote women's empowerment.
Ambassador Suomela-Chowdhury also met the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Her Excellency Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, with whom she discussed gender issues, as well as the relations and cooperation between Finland and Lagos State which have been developing very positively.
The following is the Ambassador's speech at the panel discussion event organized by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation of Lagos State on 6 March:
Honorable Commissioner for Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation of Lagos State, Mrs. Lola Akande, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, let me express my gratitude to the Honorable Commissioner, for inviting me to this event, and for the interest and appreciation that she has so kindly demonstrated towards my country. There is certainly a lot we can do together, and many areas where we can cooperate.
For the Ambassador of Finland, for several years now, it has been somewhat of a tradition to host an International Women's Day event in Abuja. This is a special year, as it is the first time I celebrate this important day in Lagos. I appreciate the opportunity to meet during this week so many impressive women of Lagos State, and I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the distinguished audience of today.
I applaud Lagos State for the attention that it is giving to gender issues. While women's rights should be discussed every day of the year, we must also have these special occasions, to maximize the attention that they receive and that they certainly do deserve.
I always welcome the opportunity to talk about gender issues and about women's rights. That is because they are an important human rights question, and a critical social and development one – as well as also being something very universal. While the degree of the challenges that women face may vary - sometimes enormously - the phenomena as such tend to be very much the same around the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With gender issues, one has to start by admitting that there is no one magic bullet. Wide-ranging simultaneous developments are needed to produce the results that we want. Those developments, in fact, do not only produce gender equality, but are also essential building blocks of a good society in general:
Firstly, education: it is not possible to achieve gender equality without educating girls and women. As individuals, it should be their right, and it is also beneficial for the whole society. Secondly, legislation is needed to protect and to promote the rights of women. Thirdly, good governance, rule of law, and strong institutions are needed to ensure the full implementation of legislation. Political empowerment of women is critical, too – women are needed as decision makers and legislators, setting and implementing the rules that govern their lives. Economic empowerment is needed to lift women out of poverty, and to put them in control of the economy. Solidarity between women, as well as positive female role models are of crucial importance. And of course, men and boys must be carried along, and must fully grasp the value of gender equality, and the fact that it is a good thing for us all.
For my country, this year is very special. In 2017, Finland celebrates 100 years as an independent nation. At least half the achievements of the past century in my country have been produced by women. Actually, already in 1906 we gave full political rights to women, to vote and to stand as candidates in elections. At the same time, of course, I fully recognize that gender equality is work in progress everywhere in the world, including in my own country.
Finally, let me appreciate the theme of this year's International Women's Day: 'Be Bold for Change!' To strive for gender equality does require courage. But if there should be one country in the world where that courage is to be found, it would be here in Nigeria. I applaud the strong, bold, confident, determined women of Nigeria and of Lagos State. They, if anyone, can make the change happen.
In fact, let us all applaud each other, and ourselves, today and every day of the year, while working together for the change that we are determined to see.
I thank you for your kind attention.