Prime Minister: Gender equality an essential part of democracy

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Gender equality does not simply appear by chance, but must be worked for – as evidenced by around half of ministers being women, in both administrations Kaja Kallas has headed so far, the prime minister says.

At the same time, the rewards are democratic inclusion and equality, she went on.

The prime minister was speaking on Wednesday at the virtual Summit for Democracy's Plenary on Democracy Delivering Inclusion and Equality, before the head of state of one of the co-host nations, Costa Rica's President Rodrigo Alberto de Jesús Chaves Robles – or simply President Chaves, as he was addressed by summit speakers – and Prime Minister Kallas' address follows in its entirety.

Thank you, President Chaves, for giving me the floor.

I was asked to speak about how democracy delivers inclusion and equality.

As the first woman Prime Minister in Estonia's history, I am a living example of that.

And I reckon this is exceptional…

…given that we're 300 years away from gender equality, according to the UN.

…given that for too many years we have witnessed too many cases where women and girls are suffering from massive violence and have to fight for their basic freedoms – in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.

…given that just 31 countries have a woman serving as a leader. I still remember that when I attended the UN Climate Summit COP26, only 10 out of 140 heads of delegations were women.

Equality and inclusion do not happen by accident. Leadership matters and leadership can make a difference. That is why in both my governments, half have been highly competent women.

Women are not better than men, and men are not better than women. We just have different life experiences. For balanced decisions, we need both genders represented.

If women leaders are not visible, then where should young girls and boys get their role models from? If we don't nudge girls to learn IT or maths and boys to consider becoming teachers or care workers, then how do we encourage stereotype-free career choices?

In Estonia we have a citizen-led movement called HK Unicorn Squad, which provides knowledge and skills in technology as hobby education only for girls – as of now more than 2,000 girls are involved.

That's an example how a citizen-led initiative can also help the government in closing the gender digital divide. And that's also an example of how democracies work – it is not only via elections, but there are a number of ways how citizens in democracies have the power to nudge their governments in the right direction.

Gender equality is not only a matter of justice but also a matter of economic growth and competitiveness. An uneven care burden at home is an issue that is more or less consistent across the world – it tends to fall far more on women.

If we shift that burden so that it falls more evenly, the potential benefits will be clear. It would free up more women to enter the workforce and turbocharge the economy. Sharing unpaid care work more evenly can also avoid numerous physical and mental health problems associated with overwork.

Parental leave policy can be of essential help here. It must be carefully built so that it would not reinforce gender stereotypes but rather reduce them. For this reason, in Estonia we have created a flexible system, which encourages fathers to share in care responsibilities.

To improve inclusion and equality, we must also set an example with the way we govern. That is why Estonia is hosting the Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership, in Tallinn this September. Our aim is to make governance and policy-making more inclusive, transparent and accountable. I hope many of you will be able to join me in Tallinn so we can keep up this vital discussion.

The Summit for Democracy is being held virtually, and is hosted by the U.S., along with South Korea, The Netherlands and Zambia as co-hosts, as well as Costa Rica as noted.

This is the second time the summit has been held.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Government Office

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