Comments by Gyde Jensen - The Germany Launch Event
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear honorable guests,
I am honored and delighted to speak to you today on a topic that I have closely followed since 2014. In 2014 Sweden became the first country in the world to launch a feminist foreign policy.
One might think this has to do with me being a woman. But what I would like to stress today is, that it is not about self-experience necessarily but rather about perspective. In my personal political experience, over the course of the last 10 years, nobody ever stopped or hindered me from achieving my political goals because I am a woman. At the age of 28 I, as the youngest female Member of Parliament, became the youngest Chair of any Committee of the German Bundestag in its history. I worked within the human rights sphere before I was elected into office one year ago. Now I chair the Human Rights Committee. Does this path qualify me to talk to you about a feminist outlook in politics, especially in foreign policy?
I did work in human rights before I was elected into office one year ago. But I came to the realization that more than my own experience, perspective matters. In these past few months I had the chance to meet so many formidable human rights activists from the most diverse backgrounds and fields. I had the chance to learn about the realities people are facing in the context of cultural repression, especially women. Being a woman in 2018 means widely different things depending on where you live in the world. The most stunning realization I had is the following: In my experience, the more women are represented within an organization or institution, the stronger the organization or institution is. With this in mind, you’ll see the significance of putting a gender perspective at the forefront of foreign policy, it touches upon the very basics of our social, cultural and even economic life. With this in mind, you’ll see the significance of the slogan „women’s rights are human rights“. And you’ll see the significance of words like those from Indian-Canadian poet Rupi Kaur that Margot Wallström, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs has so brilliantly used at the Stockholm Forum on Gender Equality this April:
“I stand on the sacrifices
Of a million women before me
What can I do to make this mountain taller
So the women after me can see farther....”
Ladies and gentlemen,
A feminist foreign policy is the resource for international work relating to gender equality.
Gender equality is at the heart of human rights and therefore self-evident for any country’s work in the general field of international relations. No matter what gender - everyone can and should take their share of responsibility. This is something we should always believe in: Fighting for gender equality needs visible action and accountability, not only from states but from each and every individual. To tell you why Germany is or should be ready for a feminist foreign policy, I would like to highlight three important points:
I would love to say, that Germany is ready for a feminist foreign policy, but instead I can only state that Germany should be ready for it.
1. Because security matters!
Next year, Germany will serve a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. This comes with a responsibility. A responsibility to uphold, defend and further develop those instruments already enshrining women’s rights at the international level. Only to name a few: There is UN Resolution 1325, a landmark resolution, reaffirming the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. There is the Istanbul Convention, instrumental in creating binding judicial norms against violence against women and domestic violence. And there is, thanks to the initiative of Sweden, the Principal Adviser on Gender and on Resolution 1325 at the United Nations. These instruments are there to be used and need to be used. Germany needs to step up in this regard. Numbers and figures have shown time and time again: Women are powerful actors in sustaining peace in their communities and nations. Research shows that achieving gender equality helps in preventing conflict, and high rates of violence against women correlates with outbreaks of conflict. Only 9% of women worldwide participated in peace mediation talks. Women and children are still most affected from conflicts when law and order breaks down. Statistics show that if you bring women to the table, peace is 35% more likely and 25% more sustainable. It’s not just about bringing women to peace talks by saying #MoreWomenMorePeace. It’s about shaping a new narrative and a strong commitment to women’s rights as human rights.
2. Second reason why Germany should be ready for a feminist foreign policy:
It’s an economic necessity!
Putting women at the center of foreign policy, it is not only to add a gender perspective, but rather to change the way we perceive economic development. In an interconnected world, we cannot allow ourselves to exclude women from a global workforce by simply paying them too little in comparison to men. This is not acceptable.
3. It’s a democratic obligation!
Gender equality is not just something politics has to deal with in legislation. Instead we need to frame gender equality as a social issue, something that needs our attention, something we need to enshrine in our daily life. However, our German government has yet to come to this realization. In fact, have you heard a single word on gender diversity from our Minister of the Interior since he took office?
Well, I guess you can’t expect that from a man who has not appointed a single woman as one of his state secretaries.
While an increasing number of women have entered formal politics, whether as heads of state or government, in cabinet and ministerial positions or ambassadorships, women still remain underrepresented. I am one of only 31% of women who got elected to this German Bundestag.
A decline of 6% in comparison to last term.
We have 6 female to 9 male ministers in our current cabinet and the quota in the German diplomatic service was well below 10% a few years ago. Consequently, the objective of the feminist approach is now more important than ever. It is so important because of the fight against global inequality which resulted from excluding certain groups from power. And power matters.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Framing a feminist foreign policy already puts a new mark on international affairs, similar to past breakthroughs such as the United Nations’ R2P “responsibility to protect” doctrine, sharing the same understanding of intertwined responsibility. To shape a successful feminist foreign policy in Germany, Europe and beyond, the importance of male commitment to this new approach should not be underestimated. Men need to be part of the conversation. Coming back to my earlier point on perspective, I think this is one of the most important things we have to keep in mind: Building new mechanisms and structures does not set us free from being role models for gender equality - no matter men or women - in our daily lives.
Thank you for your attention.
Gyde Jensen, Chair of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, German Bundestag (FDP). Born and raised at the coast of Schleswig-Holstein, Gyde Jensen worked in Geneva and Washington D.C, as well as communications manager for a political foundation. She is the co-founder of the start-up network platform ‘Kiel Starting City’. In October 2017 she was elected as member of the German Bundestag and is the speaker on human rights for the FDP parliamentary group. Since January 2018 she chairs the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
Photos by Waleria Schuele