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Speech from Lena Hallengren

Speech by Lena Hallengren at ICMEO– International Conference on Men and Equal Opportunities in Stockholm


Stockholm 15 May 2018.

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Dear participants,
Welcome to Stockholm and welcome to the 4th International Conference on Men and Equal Opportunities. Last time this conference was held in Luxemburg. Now I am very happy to see you all here in Stockholm.
Sweden has a feminist government. In practice, this means a commitment to building a society in which women and men, girls and boys can live their lives equal and to their full potential. We are not there yet. Not in Sweden or in Europe. Women and men, girls and boys, still do not have access to resources and power on equal terms.

The Metoo movement has showed that discrimination against women and girls continues. Governments need to demand zero tolerance, and work hard to ensure that sexual harassment, and abuse, will not happen. I know this conference will give great examples of how boys and men can be active in the change we need to see.
We are moving forward. In Sweden the progress made towards gender equality has contributed to high levels of female employment and growth. It has also contributed to a more equal sharing of parental leave and caring fathers.

It has not happened by itself; it is largely the result of political struggle and decisions, together with hard work from a strong civil society. Therefore, I am so glad to see so many fellow ministers, experts and civil society representatives here today.
This conference is important. We need to meet and exchange experiences, best practice and ideas. We need to develop this field and keep international focus on this important issue.
As Ministers for Gender Equality in Europe, we play a central role in leading the charge for gender equality and to involve men in the process. We have a joint responsibility to push for better opportunities and a gender equal society.
Men and gender equality is a field prioritized by the Swedish government.

I am convinced that to achieve gender equality we will need the commitment of all men. Men need to be engaged, show solidarity and participate in the struggle and process of change. Gender power relations and traditional gender stereotypes hinder the empowerment of women and girls. Men need to become more involved in sharing unpaid domestic work, in breaking the gender segregation of the labor market, and in preventing violence against women.

I am also convinced that gender equality contributes to a better life for men. Therefore, it is essential to raise matters that concern men and boys, when we make our policies on gender equality.
The theme for the conference is "Challenging norms, Changing ways – Gender equality work with boys and young men".
With this theme, we want to focus on how to change norms and how to work with youth. I believe that is crucial. Starting with boys and young men is key to shaping a better and more equal future. Boys and young men face unique challenges, that we need to consider when we talk about gender equality.
The workshops tomorrow will focus on boys and young men in areas such as education, health and violence prevention.
I am personally committed to all these areas.

When we look at education we know that boys are underachieving in school. Many boys think that being a real guy means being tuff and that you should not seem to be interested in school. This needs to change.
We also know that we will need more men in female dominated professions such as childcare and health care. For this we need to challenge traditional norms that hinder boys and men from that path.
We also need to reach more boys and men when it comes to sexual and reproductive rights and education in that field.

Preventing violence is also very important.
Men need to speak out against gender based violence and it is crucial to involve men and boys in violence prevention measures.
The Swedish government has decided on a national strategy to combat and prevent men´s violence against women. A strong part in our strategy focuses on violence prevention. One example is violence prevention programs in schools, such as "Mentors in violence-prevention". These programs are currently being tested in Sweden and show positive results. Combatting and preventing honor related violence and oppression is also part of this work. The strategy also includes work against trafficking in human beings for sexual purposes.
All these areas, and more, will be discussed during this conference.
I am proud and pleased that several Swedish national agencies and organizations have worked together with the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs to organize this conference.

First, The Swedish Gender Equality Agency that was established in January this year, has been in charge of finalizing and arranging the whole conference. Furthermore: the Swedish civil society organization MÄN; the National Agency for Education; the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions; and the Public Health Agency, all host different workshops.

We have also cooperated with the Nordic Council of ministers and we have specific Nordic activities in the program.
In all workshops and in all panels, we have experts from European countries. Thank you all for your contributions!
Finally, I would like to say - that this is a conference that focus on gender equality work with boys and young men – and I look forward to also hear the contributions from boys and young men during the conference.

I am glad to soon share the scene with Shanga Aziz, co-founder of Locker Room Talk, an organization that works with boys and sports to change attitudes and fight sexism. I think that shows a great example of the work we want to highlight here today.

I am looking forward to these two days as I am sure you are too. So, once again welcome to you all.