Norway has a long history of pursuing gender equality. In 2013, it will be 100 years since Norwegian women were given the right to vote on an equal footing with men. On 11 June 1913, Norway was one of the first countries in the world to introduce universal suffrage. Gro Harlem Brundtland became Norway’s first woman prime minister in 1981. In 2006, it was decided that 40% of companies’ board members must be women. And next year, we will celebrate the centenary of the universal suffrage.
The Norwegian Government intends to use the centenary to foster engagement in and support for important aspects of our democracy, such as the right to vote, equal opportunities, participation and representation. The celebration of the centenary will also look ahead, and will ask what can be done to expand democracy in our own time. Key issues are participation in elections and representation in politics, with particular focus on groups with low representation or low turnout such as young people and immigrants.
Today gender equality is a crucial asset and pillar of Norwegian society. It also remains one of our greatest foreign policy focus areas. Norway's devotion to the equality of sexes is illustrated by a quote from the prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in his keynote speach at the Opening of thee United Nations' Economic and Social Council Geneva in 2006: "...the greatest gains countries can achieve, economically as well politically, come with empowering women, ensuring equal opportunity, health care, and increasing the ratio of women’s active participation in working life."