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Foreign Minister Timo Soini and Execute Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meet at the House of the Estates on Friday, April 13, 2018. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Friday morning Finnish dignitaries gathered in the House of Estates in Helsinki to the launch Finland’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Highlighting the importance of protecting women who are living in war zones, many experts spoke about how implementing the National Action Plan would help enhance women’s roles and decision-making capacities with conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.

Kicking off the launch was the Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini. Discussing the importance of the National Action Plan, he said that it gives Finland the opportunity to show the importance of women. Iterating that Finland is serious about its commitment to better address the protection of refugee women and girls, he said that people need to have political courage and take concrete action.

Following Timo Soini’s call for Finnish society to work together to help women in conflict areas, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka took the stage. As the Executive Director of UN Women, she stated that “not only do we have to prevent conflict, but we have to protect the peace that we have.”

Commending Finland’s leadership on engaging in efforts along with other countries, she called for leaders to continue the momentum and make efforts to remain the champions of the 1325 agenda, because “we need your support and expertise,” she said.

In its foreign policy, Finland emphasizes strengthening the rights and position of women and girls and promoting gender equality. Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Foreign Minister Timo Soini waiting to take the stage. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Following this, a panel of experts took the stage to give their statements on how they are aiding the efforts made by the National Action Plan. First, Rolf Steffansson, the executive director of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, spoke about the importance of supporting women in conflict areas. He said that due to the presence women have in their local communities they are more aware of the situations local victims face. “We have a long history of empowering women,” he said. “And we find this particularly important in situations of conflict.”

Batulo Essak, a gender equality expert, member of the Nordic Women Mediators’ Network, and CEO of African Care spoke after Steffansson. She talked about the efforts being made in Somalia to increase the role of women in society. While women do participate in the peace-making efforts there is still a long way to go.

“There are strong traditional challenges for women to hold strong positions of leadership,” she said. Which makes it difficult for women to hold non-traditional roles. Parliament member Jutta Urpilainen followed this by stating that more needs to be done in order to both prevent gender-based violence and promote accountability. “Voices of women and youth need to be better heard,” Jutta Urpilainen said. “This action plan is a good tool for these efforts.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka and the former Finnish president, Tarja Halonen, are good acquaintances. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Closing the launch of this action plan, former president Tarja Halonen stood behind the podium calling for efforts to move continuously improve. Citing the stories told by previous speakers, she said that such kind of inspiration allows people to see around the world. “We will see how the world will become better,” she said.

Ending the event, master of ceremonies and former minister Elisabeth Rehn made a call for action. “Let’s go out and work with this, because we can sit just listening at meeting and conferences,” she said.

“But the most important is to go out and do something.”