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Speech by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development: Financing for gender equality – results and good practices


Mr Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr President of the World Bank Group, Madame Executive Director of UN Women,


Distinguished guests,

I wish to thank UN Women and the World Bank Group for organising this important event.

I am honoured to reflect, with you, on how we can enhance one of the smartest development investments of all: the investment in gender equality.

And I am impatient. There is no time for complacency. Because we have to be honest: gender equality is still a distant goal.

However, fortunately for us feminists, 2015 is a year of political opportunities. A year in which we can close the gap between talking and doing.

We have celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. A universal stock-taking exercise that injected energy into our mission.

Here and now in Addis, and later in New York, we have a chance to set the world firmly on course towards actually achieving gender equality. And we cannot afford to waste that opportunity.

The first requisite for action is to understand why investing in gender equality is so smart.

In Sweden, if women had the same employment rate as men and worked as many hours, GDP would increase by 12 per cent. Similar or even higher rates could be achieved in most countries if work was gender equal.  

Gender equality is not only morally right. It is also an extremely potent development and growth booster.

So what should we do? A good starting point is the draft Action Plan we are discussing here and now.

The Plan’s philosophy is that, first of all, we must level the playing field. We must stop the political, economic and legal discrimination against women and girls.

Because if we fail, financial flows and opportunities will continue to be structurally tilted to favour men and boys.

Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.

Being safe is a human right – and an essential element of an enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment. All forms of violence affecting women and girls must be stopped.

Gender-based violence is a huge – and universal – development obstacle. A man-made, fully reversible obstacle.

Another element of an enabling environment is women’s equal rights to economic and productive resources, including property, credit and other financial services. Governments must ensure that women enjoy equal rights in this area.

My background is in the male-dominated manufacturing sector. I have seen first-hand how businesses improve through the equal participation of women in the workforce, workplace and in decision-making.

In Sweden and Europe we have not completed –sometimes not even initiated – the reforms we need to achieve gender-equal work.

Women still work part-time more than men. They earn less. And they still do most of the unpaid work at home.

To increase the participation of women in the labour market, we therefore need social reforms. Paid parental leave. Family welfare, for children and the elderly. And training and education.  

Indeed, education deserves particular emphasis.

Because the gender differences in education between girls and boys, women and men, are particularly large and a particular obstacle to development.

But also because hardly any investment yields higher returns than ensuring the right of girls to attend school. Investing in the education of girls is self-evidently beneficial – a low-hanging fruit for any government dedicated to development.

The investment level also mirrors the commitment of a country to actually achieve gender equality. Where are you putting the resources?


Gender-responsive budgeting is the next frontier. It is how we move from words to deeds as we empower women and girls.

It is a highly rewarding gender mainstreaming enterprise. To ask ourselves – how does this particular allocation contribute to gender equality?

The Swedish Government has started to systematically pose this question, as we plan, budget and implement all political reforms.

True, we dedicate specific resources to specific gender equality actions.

But it is through the integration of a gender perspective across all sectors that we can correct structurally gender-skewed public spending and services. 

I challenge all actors involved in sustainable development to practice gender-responsive budgeting: fellow governments, the UN system, the World Bank Group, civil society, academia, business and everyone else.

This is a joint challenge and opportunity. And I believe our efforts in this area could advance faster.

We could be more precise and more bold. Be more impatient – with ourselves.

Why? Because it is we, here and now, who must show leadership. Act as we preach.

Make sure that we invest in gender equality. That we direct our resources to empower women and girls, to the benefit of all.

As Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai said: “We cannot succeed if half of us are held back”. 

Thank you.