Combating violence against women, reforming discriminatory legislation and highlighting the particular vulnerability of women and girls in migration flows. These are some examples of areas in which Sweden is taking measures to strengthen women’s rights.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are an example of an area in which Sweden is taking a series of measures. For example, Swedish support and advocacy has helped around 90 local communities stop the practice of female genital mutilation. Some 20 countries have produced legislation, legislative proposals and new policies that have strengthened gender equality. Two examples are France and Ireland, which have adopted legislation on the buying of sexual services that is in line with the Swedish model.

In addition, Sweden’s work in the SRHR area has helped hundreds of thousands of women and girls avoid unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies. Work on global SRHR is now intensifying, among other things with the She Decides initiative. She Decides is part of Sweden’s efforts to develop more strategic partnerships to counteract a global trend where growing conservative forces are questioning women’s and girls’ enjoyment of SRHR. By developing more strategic partnerships, good conditions for broadening the funding of SRHR globally are created.

In north-western Zambia, Sweden has contributed to SRHR training for more midwives. Sweden has also worked against child marriage with a broad campaign that involved famous personalities, media appearances, visits to helplines, presentations and more.

Sweden has also worked on these issues in Colombia by opening paths to the midwife profession. Supported by Swedish expertise and inspired by Swedish advocacy, Colombia is now reviewing its legislation and preparing a curriculum for a university course focused on the training and work of midwives.

Swedish support has also contributed to the introduction of sex education in schools in 21 African countries. In January 2016, Sweden assumed the leadership of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies. During Sweden’s leadership, 16 states and organisations have joined the initiative and made a number of commitments. In total, 66 states and organisations have now made around 265 commitments. Some examples of the commitments made during the Sweden’s leadership are that the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD DAC) will improve data collection concerning gender-based violence in humanitarian crises and that the United Nations Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (UN OCHA) will analyse from a gender perspective the projects that have received funding from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Sweden is actively working for countries to accede to and implement the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). Work involves combating impunity for violence in close relationships, increasing women’s and girls’ access to the judicial system, and involving men and boys in the work to change norms that link masculinity and violence.

Sweden is working against destructive gender roles that link masculinity and violence, and has produced a study in the area in cooperation with a university in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Embassy also supports projects for young men from violent environments and contributes to reforms and education and training in the judicial sector to combat impunity for sexual violence.

Examples of other initiatives include Sweden’s recent cooperation with the Swedish Red Cross on a publication on international humanitarian law from a gender perspective and Sweden’s cooperation with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and bilateral actors to combat the prevalence of, and impunity for, sexual violence in conflicts.

In October 2016, Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström hosted a workshop on women’s enjoyment of human rights and reform of national legislation and practices that discriminate against women. The participants included ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the EU’s most senior gender advisor Maria Marinaki and World Bank Director Augusto Lopez-Claros.

In 2016, Sweden has also actively worked to further highlight the particular roles, risks and vulnerabilities of women and girls in mixed migration flows. Several important steps were taken in connection with the two refugee summits in September. Participants at the summits made significant pledges, which will contribute to a well-needed intensification of the management of these problems globally.

Sweden is also taking measures for women and girls in, for example, the school system and public representation. In Ethiopia in 2015, Swedish contributions helped more than 21 000 girls to complete upper secondary school, 5 700 girls to receive school meals and over 800 girls to receive school uniforms and school materials. This has, in turn, reduced the number of those dropping out of school and child marriages.

Swedish support to local organisations in Moldova has contributed to the country adopting a law in 2016 on more gender-equal representation. Under the new law, party lists, the government, the parliament’s secretariat and other state institutions must include at least 40 per cent women in electable positions.


Read more: Three in every five Swedish Foreign Service employees are women