Kigali, 3 July 2014
Let me start off with a slight complaint. My sister, our Speaker of Parliament, when she was kicking off her speech, she addressed the Prime Minister of Norway as her sister, as our sister, and forgot to say I am your brother as well. She just referred to me as the president, but I’m not complaining about that.
Therefore, I am pleased to be here with you and to welcome you to Kigali, our capital, for the Global Forum of Women in Parliaments.
My special thanks also to Prime Minister Solberg, with whom I share the honour and responsibility of co-chairing the MDG Advocacy Group. We are happy to have you, Prime Minister, in our midst.
For good reason, the proportion of parliamentary seats held by women is one of the three indicators that were chosen to track progress toward the 3rd Millennium Development Goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women.
In Rwanda, we have never seen attainment of this ratio as an end in itself.
Rather, it is the natural result of a conscious effort to remove the arbitrary obstacles that prevented many Rwandans, including women, from using their talents to the full.
As we see it, the politics of women’s empowerment is part of the politics of liberation more generally.
Beyond Parliament, Rwandans have become so accustomed to seeing women in positions of responsibility in government and the private sector, that it is barely even remarked upon, and I think we should even be doing more, in many other places.
Such examples have an important effect on how big the dreams and ambitions of our girls are, and on how much encouragement they get from parents and teachers.
Consider that nearly two-thirds of the Rwandan legislature is female, even though the Constitution only provides for at least 30 per cent. It was the citizens of this country who voted to double that.
In this, there is an important lesson as we make the final push to achieve the MDG targets by next year, and look beyond to the post-2015 framework.
Measurements, smart policy, and investment in public goods are crucial tools for driving change. But ultimately, success comes down to the choices made by hundreds of millions of real people every day. They are both the beneficiaries and the principal agents of development.
Therefore, wherever progress towards a goal appears to be off-track, one question to ask is, has enough been done to build popular consensus on the way forward?
As we look beyond 2015, we should work to more fully integrate private sector growth and investment climate reform into the development paradigm.
In tandem, the indicators should catalyse investments to raise labour productivity, so that growth results in higher incomes for everyone in society.
Given the opportunities presented by high rates of urbanisation, there is a strong case for a new goal focused on sustainable cities and human settlements.
Furthermore, as recognised at the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, we see an essential role for the decentralised structures of local government in the design, implementation, and monitoring of the next-generation Sustainable Development Goals — all this, at whatever level, involving women.
Targets that are specific and actionable are more likely to be achieved. After all, we may not be able to eradicate all the world’s ills by 2030, but the effort is worth a try.
But, by working together, it is within our power to expand the circle of prosperity to include a greater share of the world’s people than ever before in history, with women playing lead roles at different levels in all sectors.