Speech by the President of the Republic of Finland Mr. Sauli Niinistö, at the HeForShe IMPACT 10X10X10 Parity Report Launch on Wednesday, 20 September 2017

(check against delivery)

Today, we celebrate the achievements of the HeforShe initiative. Let me begin by congratulating UN Women for launching the Parity Report. It highlights the success that the HeForShe movement has already achieved. I joined the Initiative when it was launched in spring 2015. Together with my fellow IMPACT Champions I have supported its expansion into a global movement ever since.

This year Finland celebrates the 100th anniversary of its independence. The theme of our celebration is “Together”. Women and men, working together, have built our nation into the country it is today. Finland is continuously ranked as one of the top countries in the Global Gender Gap Index. Improving gender equality has been a determined policy throughout our independence. Actually, gender equality is the very foundation of our nation. To put it simply, Finland would not have become the country it is today without it.

But there is always room for improvement. As a HeForShe IMPACT Champion I am committed to making the world a better place for women and girls. I have made three specific commitments which relate to ending violence against women, advancing women’s economic leadership, and the realization of the women, peace and security agenda.

I will now focus on the first commitment which is also our case study in the Parity Report. In Finland, approximately one in three women experience violence during their lifetime. The figure is unacceptably high. It should go without saying that women have the right to a life free from violence. Finland, like all countries, has an obligation to end violence against women in all forms.

Finland was one of the first countries to sign the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. In particular, we aim to reduce violence against women and girls perpetrated by young men. In Finland all men must either do military or non-military national service. We see the time spent in military training as an opportunity to influence young men before behavioral patterns and attitudes have become routine. All our conscripts now undergo training on anger management and prevention of intimate partner violence. The training offers tools on how to address, prevent and control aggressive actions. Annually, this training reaches around 21 000 men. I am convinced that by changing the attitudes of the young we will come closer to our goal of ending violence against women.


I wish to express my appreciation to UN Women for its invaluable work in strengthening the rights of women and girls. I am honoured to be part of the HeForShe Movement and to have contributed to the Parity Report. It contains best practices that need to be spread widely and replicated around the world. I also wish the report inspires every boy and man to join the Movement in advancing gender equality for the benefit of us all.