Check against delivery!
I would like to thank you all for being here.
The idea came during one of the family photos we had in a ministers’ meeting one year ago.
We realised that women are already in power in some – not irrelevant - parts of the world and that maybe we had a responsibility to show that side of power, not least because we have the responsibility of encouraging girls and women around the world to be what they want and to aspire to be what they want, not because it is good for women but this is good for the world and for our societies.
So, I am very grateful for you being here and having accepted this invitation in a week that is going to be probably one of the craziest weeks for all of us. But it is also good to start before the (United Nations) General Assembly in New York among friends, with probably what is the most colorful family picture one can have.
A few serious words about why we came up with this idea.
Each of us here has walked, I believe, an incredible path to get here.
Some of us were the first women to graduate or to study in our families. Most of us were the first women Foreign Ministers in our country or the first to be part of a perfectly equally-gender-balanced government - I had that experience myself. All of us have done things that no one else has done before. And all of us have experienced that first reaction: “This was never done before.”
So what? Maybe we can try.
I think that our stories can be a great source of inspiration for millions of women around the world. Our stories can tell girls that they can be anything they want if they believe in that, if they work on that and if they are given the right opportunities to do that.
The reason why we are here today is this: to work so that all women enjoy the exact same opportunities as men: opportunities to study; equal pay for equal work; to choose who they love and who they do not love. And to do this in a way that is full of respect and dignity, as was mentioned before, stressing the fact that women's rights - as any human rights - are never against anybody else’s rights.
A women Foreign Ministers meeting is not at all against men. On the contrary, women’s rights make the entire society better off and probably also make the work, the life and the job of men Foreign Ministers easier.
So, it is not just an issue of equal rights. It is not just an issue of achieving fairness for women. It is working to avoid a clear waste of human capital that this world cannot afford anymore. Because when women are not fully empowered, our collective potential in the world is not fully used. So, equal opportunities mean that we need more women in jobs that are traditionally perceived as for men, like politics. But we also need more men doing jobs that are traditionally perceived as for women - otherwise, the balance does not work -, which means teachers, nurses: people that have important responsibility over everybody's lives.
We are all different; we are all equal; not only men and women, but also among us. And all of us have a special contribution to bring within our societies.
In our work as Foreign Ministers, we have all seen the special role that women can play - and do play when they can do it - in peace processes, for instance. Let me spend a few words on this, because today we celebrate the International Day of Peace, which is an interesting coincidence for our meeting today.
Think of Afghanistan, where clearly there could be no reconciliation if half of society were excluded from the peace talks. This is why the European Union is training women to join the High Peace Council and play an active role in shaping the future of the country.
Think of Syria. I am very glad that one of the Syrian women that are advising the [UN] Special Envoy [Staffan] de Mistura and who are working on the ground will join us. Many of us have had the chance to work with this incredible group of women. They come from very different social, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, but I have experienced that whenever they are around the table, they manage to find understanding and agreement on something. Looking at the problem, looking at the solution, moving forward. And I cannot think of any region of the world, from the Balkans to the Horn of Africa, where women do not have a role to play in peace, reconciliation and overcoming or preventing conflicts.
I think that we are also here today to join forces and try to remove the obstacles that are still there. Because we are here, but we know that many other women are not in this kind of position.
So, how to open new pathways for women's engagement in our democracies, in our societies? Here I am proud of the work we have been doing as Europeans together with the United Nations, in particular, and together with friendly and like-minded partners around the world, as you are, to also protect women human rights defenders at a moment where all human rights defenders are under attack. We see the need to do that.
Today we will share ideas on what we can do together, also to fight violence and protect defenders and how to remove the obstacles that prevent women from entering the labour market, such as the gender pay gap. I mentioned this as I think it is extremely important that we focus on that or the lack of work/life balance or good child care, which is not only relevant for women, but for men as well, as they are also fathers as we are mothers.
So it is I think something on which we have a lot of ideas and good practices to share. And I am sure that today we will work on practical solutions, but also send a very powerful message that every girl can dream to be a Foreign Minister, a President, a Prime Minister, a dancer, a basketball player, or a boxer, a nurse or a rocket scientist. That depends only on their talent, the opportunities they are given, and on the society they grow up in. It is our job and our responsibility to work on that.
So I am really grateful to Chrystia [Freeland], to Canada, to all of you for gathering us here today and also to prepare in the best way our presence in the [United Nations] General Assembly, where I am sure we will bring some of these words of wisdom with which we have started today.