On June 2014 I flew out to Malmo, Sweden, with 2 colleagues to attend the Nordisk Forum 2014, a conference that brought together 15,000 men and women from across the Nordic nations to call for New Action on Women’s Rights.
It was a fantastic conference with inspirational individuals and organisations joining a lively and productive discussion on what is needed to speed up the journey to achieving gender equality.
From a Welsh perspective, I think there is much to be learnt from the Nordic nations to help tackle the barriers that continue to prevent women from being able to achieve and prosper, but I want to focus on a single point.
Gender equality is at the top of the political agenda in most of the Nordic nations, with dedicated government departments or government supported bodies collecting the necessary data and best practice to inform policy development.
No one seemed afraid to label themselves a feminist, something which certainly does not seem to be true here in the UK.
The need for gender equality is not discussed as a sub-topic. It is firmly discussed in terms of the overall well-being of society.
If Wales and the UK can learn one thing from the Nordic countries it is this: Gender equality should be right at the forefront of policy development.
Supporting 50% of the population to reach their full potential is good for women, their families and the economy and is vital in building a fair and sustainable society.
A moment that struck me most at the conference, and I think sums up the Nordic attitude to gender equality, was witnessing the leader of one of the main political parties in Sweden stand on stage call himself a feminist and tell the audience that if elected, he would create a gender balanced government with a feminist agenda.
The Nordic nations haven’t won the fight for gender equality. All the people that we spoke to at the conference told us about issues and barriers they are working to address in their countries, some of which they share with Wales and the UK.
However, the data they have available to them and the resources that are dedicated to solving these problems will enable them to continue making much faster progress than we are making here.
If we want to catch up we have to follow suit and ensure that action to tackle gender inequality is firmly at the top of the political agenda.