Photo credit: Women Deliver
Photo credit: Women Deliver

During the Women Deliver conference, I had the great pleasure and honor to interview Tarja Halonen, a woman who was the president of my own home country, Finland, for the past 12 years from 2000 to 2012. She was the 11th elected president of Finland, and our first female head of state.

Being the first female president was not the only way Halonen has pushed the boundaries of gender roles, shattered real and perceived glass ceilings, and advocated for girls’ and women’s rights both during her presidency and after. She is a strong proponent of women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality, particularly in the area of reproductive and sexual health, and currently serves as the co-chair of the High Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development. Halonen participated in several events at Women Deliver, and send out strong and resonating messages to participants both near and far about the importance of keeping sexual and reproductive health and rights on the global agenda as a priority. During a plenary titled “The Development Agenda Through a Woman’s Lens”, Halonen noted:

We need to ensure meaningful progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, as a human right and as an ethical imperative. We need to convince decision makers, particularly in these times of financial constraints, that this is something they should and could do. They need to know that sexual and reproductive health and rights are also, in a way, issues of economics and sustainability of our planet — These are smart, cost-effective investments. You don’t need to choose whether you do right, or whether you do what is smart – You can do both.

President Halonen also called for men and boys to join the cause for promoting gender equality, reminding us that “50% +50% makes 100%”, and both men and women are needed to push the gender equality agenda forward.

Watch the Girls’ Globe interview with President Halonen to find out her thoughts about the post-2015 agenda, the role of countries that are further along with gender equality to support and promote those values in other countries, and on what young people can do in their everyday lives to support women’s and girls’ rights!

Emma&Tarja Halonen

Access videos on plenaries and press conferences attended by President Halonen at Women Deliver on the conference’s official live stream page:

Plenary: Women Lead – Opportunities and Challenges with Tarja Halonen;Chelsea Clinton, Board Member of the Clinton Foundation; Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation in America; and Yakin Ertürk, Member of Council of Europe. Moderated by Ghida Fakhry from Al Jazeera.

Panel: The Development Agenda Through a Woman’s Lens with Tarja Halonen; Helen Clark, Administrator at UNDP and former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; and Theo Sowa, CEO, African Women’s Development Fund. Moderated by Frances Kissling, President, Center for Health, Ethics and Social Policy. Video remarks from Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General.

Official Press Conferences held during Women Deliver can be accessed here.

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