Denmark’s minister of gender equality and ecclesiastical affairs on Feb. 19 visited the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to learn more about the organization’s work on gender equality and preventing violence against women – particularly in the context of recent political attacks on women’s health and rights.
ICRW was the only nongovernmental organization that Minister Manu Sareen met with during his short visit to Washington, D.C., to help kick off the Nordic Cool 2013 international festival at the Kennedy Center for the Arts. A member of parliament for the Danish Social-Liberal Party, Sareen has been instrumental in, among other efforts, promoting the incorporation – or “mainstreaming” – of gender and equality perspectives in policy.
Indeed, for the past six years, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have claimed the highest level of gender equality in the world, according to the Gender Gap Report. Gender equality ministers in each Nordic nation are keen to maintain this ranking, even amidst increasingly vocal opposition to some of their efforts.
“We’re holding the gender torch high,” Sareen said. “We’re doing this because other countries rely on us.”
Sareen met with ICRW’s Suzanne Petroni, senior director of gender, population and development, and Stella Mukasa, director of gender, violence and rights, for an hour-long conversation that centered largely on women’s health and rights and often touched on the upcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which will focus on eliminating all forms of violence against women.
Petroni discussed challenges that advocates for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights continue to face in the United States and globally, and stressed the importance of sharing facts to counter opposing voices. “We have the evidence to make the case,” Petroni said.
Meanwhile, Mukasa shared her expertise on violence against women, saying that in tandem with prevention programs, there must be efforts to encourage communities to reflect on and adjust their attitudes about violence. “This has to be reinforced,” Mukasa said, “with long-term public messaging.”
In terms of incorporating gender perspectives into programs and policies, Sareen spoke of a need to develop “a new language” for the public, “explaining that this is for all of us – that men have a role; that we face problems, but also have to be part of the solutions.”
Sareen will return to the U.S. in March to represent Denmark at the CSW.