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Maailman aavikoitumis- ja kuivuuspäivän pääpuhe 7.6.

Presidentti Tarja Halonen piti pääpuheen 7.6. UNCCD:n paneelikeskustelussa naisista ja maa- ja metsätaloudellisesta talouden elpymisestä. 


Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.  This is such a relevant topic. Gender equality is not just important when discussing land management or sustainable development; it is a precondition for success. 

Women are half of world’s population, and failure to tap on their potential will prevent the progress towards our common goals. Women can be powerful agents of change. Women have the knowledge and experience that can be used to increase the success of land restoration projects.  

In many cases, women are also the majority: for example in Asia and Africa the majority of the small farmers are women. Their role and knowledge in sustainable land management is of vital importance.  

Today more than ever, we need to ensure that we don’t take steps back on gender equality. We simply cannot afford it. The Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating effects around the world. It has in many cases worsened the existing challenges in our societies and even created new ones. Those in the most vulnerable positions have suffered the most.  

Women have carried proportionate weight during the pandemic. Majority of health care workers globally are women. In addition, women have been in a very important role in the education sector, ensuring children are able to continue their education despite the exceptional times.  Women also continue to do the “double dury” and bear the burden of unpaid care work at home, which has increased significantly. Women’s role in securing societies safety net has been crucial during the pandemic. 

All of this is true in my home country Finland, too. Workforce in different sectors are still quite strongly divided by gender in Finland as well. This is especially the case in male-dominated technology and IT sectors and in female-dominated health care and educational sectors. But, a lot of great work has been done to make societal conditions more gender-equal in Finland. Indeed, girls have been increasingly successful in schools and higher education – marking high grades in math and sciences.  

Interest in forestry has grown in younger generations. Just this year, 2021, the number of applicants for forest sciences at the University of Helsinki grew by 30% compared to the previous year and overall, the faculty of Agriculture and Forestry attracted more applicants than before.  The faculty recognizes one of the key factors being the growing interest in sustainable resource use. Through this sustainability lens, women could increasingly get involved with these sectors. The gender balance in these sectors in Finland is already very good. Over half of the students in Agriculture and Forestry are women and women make up also half of the science students.

Finland has always been perceived as the country of lush, green forests and thousands of blue lakes. The role of forest is in the core of the national history, culture and livelihoods. Forest industry used to be paper and pulp – but now with technological advancements and societal development its’ role has changed and become more versatile. This shift from hard, physical labor into a more versatile field has also created more opportunities for women to get involved.  Land sector alike has been under a similar technological revolution, which means that skills needed for working in these industries have changed. 

Nowadays forest and land sector are not limited solely to the practical hands-in-dirt work. Many other industries such as technology and material development, environmental protection, policy, food production and leisure and travel industries are increasing intertwined with forests and land sector. Women are strongly connected to all of these fields, which leads to more diverse approaches, better decision-making and improves national employment. This is a clear example how the whole society benefits of equal participation. Forest and land sectors are also important for many entrepreneurs in agriculture as a side business. Land and forests especially are in a key role for livelihoods in Finland and their diversification improves the opportunities of women to get involved.  

To conclude, we have to ensure gender equality in law and practice in order to achieve our common goals. Women should have equal access ownership and control over land and equal inheritance rights. We have to ensure women’s equal participation in planning, decision-making and implementation of agricultural production and land management. Education can be powerful tool to achieve this.  Finland’s example shows that equal participation simply results in better outcomes for everyone. 

Thank you and I look forward to hearing this panel discussion!