Women Tend to Have Different Perspectives, other Issues, and other Ways of Working then Men
An interview with Mrs. Gerd-Liv Valla, former Minister of Justice and Police, and the first female resident of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (largest umbrella organization of labour unions in Norway).
AT: Norway is associated with fish, oil and high pensions. However, Norway has a distinctive feature – it is the women. In today’s Norwegian government, 42% of all ministerial portfolios are held by women, and they also occupy half of the seats on the list of deputies from the ruling part)’. Could you please tell us how women in Norway gained such achievements in the field of human rights?
Although Norway is not yet a fully egalitarian society, we have come far. With your reference to female representation in the Norwegian Labour Party and the current Norwegian government, with female participation exceeding 40 percent, answering the question of how we got there requires a multifaceted approach:
Female quotas. Many years ago the Labour Party passed a rule on quotas. The aim was for women to account for 40 percent of party representatives in local constituency boards, parliament, government, and within the party structure itself.
Gro Harlem Brundtland’s government of 1986 was widely renowned for its cabinet of 18 ministers consisting of 8 female ministers. This attracted world-wide attention. Many ask: Is it not discriminatory to be admitted through a quota? Do you get the best? Do women want this for themselves?
Norway’s first female president of parliament, Kirsti Kolle Grondahl, put it like this: “I am proud of once being admitted to local politics through a quota”.
Yes, I believe we can get the best. It is common to say that our intellectual capacity is divided equally between men and women.
Henceforth, it is also important to tap into the resources of the female population. This has to some extent been hindered by traditional attitudes and culture, where you don’t see others than those like yourself, due very much to ancient systems which are of a suppressing nature to women. Quotas are not about admitting the unqualified; it is about men not hindering skilled women from reaching positions which they ought to have because of their qualifications. This is for the best for society as whole, its ability for growth, welfare and development.
Women tend to have different perspectives, other issues, and other ways of working then men. Diversity makes the decision-making process better. Furthermore, it is a matter of justice. It is not so that quotas exist everywhere in the political and organizational scene in Norway. However, a few years ago a minister from the political party “Hoyre” leaped on an unexpected and radical step: He introduced board gender quotas for the private sector. Gender quotas are controversial. My personal opinion is that they can be useful in pushing toward a desirable development with regard to equality between men and women. A wide range of societies around the world have expressed their interest in using gender quotas as a tool. There are of course different approaches to application: locally, centrally, in private sector and in the education system.
A strong feminist movement (new and radical feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s), which partially lead to, and which at the same time partially was a result of greater numbers of women participating in the work force in the 1960s and 70s, has been of great importance for the current situation of women in Norway. If I were to highlight some significant measures, which can also be of inspiration to other countries and societies, I would mention: Law on gender equality (1975), where also the principle of equal pay for equal work/work of equal wine are included.
Law on self-determined abortion (1978).
Good welfare legislation on leave of absence in connection with birth and care. Today parents receive 57 weeks with 80 percent paid parental leave for each child or 47 weeks of full pay. The right to paid time off work for breast feeding is legally articulated, so is the right to paid leave of absence for care of ill children and parents. Parental leave consists of a legally defined minimum leave of absence for the mother, the father and one part which the parents are free to share among each other. Paternity leave. A very important tool in the work for equality is the law on parental leave, where the father also has to lake out a share of the total leave. If not there will be a reduction in the total amount of /erne of absence. It all began with 4 weeks in 1993; – today there is 14 weeks of paternity leave. This is of huge importance for gender equality and for the fathers’ relationships and care towards his children. Our ambition is for women to be able to participate in the work force on an equal footing with men. This is not possible if the mother is responsible for everything at home in addition to participating in the work force. We have a lot of room for improvement on this front also in Norway, but it is going forward. It is more and more common for men to use strollers, and to actively take part in the everyday activities and care of their children. More than 90 percent of fathers in Norway are now at home with their children in line with the legally outlined time for paternity leave.
Full coverage for kindergarten and after-school programs for the youngest schoolchildren.
AT: According to reports of international organizations, Azerbaijani women are faced with violence and a number of problems in the family. In many regions of Azerbaijan, girls drop out of school and prepare for family life after a certain age. What do you think about this?
You ask my opinion on young girls dropping out of school in order to prepare for family life. I myself believe strongly that we will have a better society for ALL – also for men – if women participate in the work force and enroll in education on an equal basis with men, and if men participate on an equal basis with women in the home. We, who have in many years been active in the struggle for women’s rights, always say that without economic independence it is not possible to have the safety and independence needed to be an independent and active member of society’- a member that all societies would be enriched to have many of. At the core, I believe that is what is needed in order to stop violence against women. Independent and liberated women stand in a totally different and not least stronger position towards their violent spouses then those who are economically and in others ways dependent on their spouse. They can leave. They have the opportunity to make a living for themselves and their children. And they ought to leave. Violence towards women and children is dis gusting; henceforth action ought to be put in place in order to stop its occurrence. In my opinion it is a combination of legal punishment and a fundamental change in attitudes that is required in order to fight violence against women.
AT: Thank you for the interview, Mrs. Gerd-Liv Valla.