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January 21, 2019

Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes: It makes economic sense to empower Kenyan women

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (left) on November 27 in northern Kenya, where she was joined by Danish Minister for Development Ulla Tornaes (right). REUTERS
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (left) on November 27 in northern Kenya, where she was joined by Danish Minister for Development Ulla Tornaes (right). REUTERS

Last week, more than 20 organisations launched the "Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign", a new advocacy initiative to drive progress toward gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals in Kenya. Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) is leading the Kenyan chapter. 

Deliver for Good was initially launched at the global level during the Women Deliver Conference in 2016. The global campaign is supported by the governments of Canada and Denmark. 

The launch in Nairobi was graced by Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes, Danish Crown Princess Mary, and the president of Women Deliver, Katja Iversen.

The Star’s John Muchangi had a chat with Minister Ulla during the event.



What is your experience from the Kenyan visit? 

I had a very short visit, just two days and yesterday (Tuesday November 27) I had a chance to go and visit Northern Rangelands Trust, where I had the chance to see and learn the project that we are supporting in relation to peace ambassadors, peace between different groups. I was really impressed and amazed by what we had achieved through this project. I mean, knowing that peace and stability is prerequisite to prosperity, it goes hand in hand with economic empowerment of women in that region as well. 

So the project has to do with peace ambassadors in local communities and to learn how this has actually empowered the women to be peace ambassadors in their local communities. We also work on economic empowerment of women, where they learn how to set up small businesses with the beads and now they have managed get into real business. They are now selling you all kinds of different things in tourist shops.


At the launch of ‘Deliver for Good Kenya’, you said empowering women to participate equally in the global economy would increase the global GDP by 25 per cent. Can you explain that further? 

This is from the consulting firm, McKinsey [Global Institute]. They have made different analyses, resulting in that  fantastic figure. If women are getting access to the same opportunities as men, apparently we can increase the global GDP by 25 per cent. So for me, gender equality is first of all a human right. But it also makes good sense to empower women. I come from a country where we have equal access to labour market, equal access to education, and where women have the possibility of participating and use their potential. It makes a huge difference if you become pregnant at eight, 12, 13, 15 or even at 16 years without getting a chance to finish school. You do not have the same possibility of contributing to society as if you would finalised school.


What do you think about the lack of enough data on women’s contribution to economy? 

It is absolutely key we get data and we get sex-aggregated data or else we do not know exactly what is actually the contribution of the women.


The Gender Bill that would have created more political representation for Kenyan women in Parliament did not go through. What is your reaction? 

It is such a shame this did not pass. But hopefully it will have a chance in future. As I understand, it is according to the Constitution. There is a need to adopt the Constitution and implement it fully.


Kenya is launching the Universal Health Coverage in a few days time, what can we learn from Denmark? 

We support programmes in health sector in Kenya but I am not the one programming them. You have to ask the embassy about this. But I really acknowledge the effort on UHC. This is a major step forward. We are working in the health sector to support this to its implementation.  It is hard to answer what you can really learn from Denmark. You can actually get inspired from the way we have organised our healthcare. But you can do it the Kenyan way.


Today Denmark scores well on the World Economic Forum's gender equality index. How was your journey? 

We changed our Constitution in 1915 and through this, women got the right to vote and then in the 1960s women became began to participate more and more in the labor market. So today I think we are one of the countries with the highest female representation in the labour market — jobs, businesses, the entire formal labour market.















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