Heidi Hautala
Heidi Hautala

During the European Development Days, Heidi Hautala highlighted the role played by women in African development policies. This optic is closely linked to Finnish history and culture. “Finland was a very poor country a hundred years ago, and women have taken on an important role in society”, points out the Minister for International Development.

In this Scandinavian country with 5.2 million inhabitants, women are indeed in power. In Helsinki, Heidi Hautala is part of a government comprising ten women and nine men. This former leader of the Green Party (1987-1991) and former MEP was appointed minister in June 2011 in the government of the conservative Jyrki Katainen. She stresses that “Gender equality is one of the principles of our policy in all areas”.

Despite the crisis, Finland, the second largest European donor, has decided to maintain the level of its Official Development Assistance (ODA) in order to achieve the target of 0.7% of GDP recommended by the United Nations by 2015. Finland’s ODA for Africa reached USD 1.074bn in 2011 (0.58% of Finland’s GDP). It focuses on targets for poverty reduction and the application of new technologies, together with education and decentralization.

For Heidi Hautala, Rwanda is an example of success in terms of women participating in decision-making. “A Constitution was adopted in the aftermath of the genocide in 1994, with quotas for women in positions of political responsibility. Rwanda is the first African country for the number of women in Parliament”.

Since the legislative elections in 2008, Rwanda has indeed had 56% of women in Parliament – a world first, meaning that the country led by Paul Kagamé is even in front of South Africa (43.5% of women in Parliament since the legislative elections in 2009), one of the four countries in the world to have over 40% of women in Parliament, along with Iceland and Bolivia.

“For all our partners”, states Heidi Hautala, “in East Africa in particular, in Tanzania, Mozambique, in Ethiopia, the issue of women’s rights is a very import aspect. We examine all projects, all programs with this objective in mind”.

Another important area of Finland’s development policy is the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development purposes. Several public-private partnerships (PPPs) have notably been signed in Kenya with the Nokia Group. One of them, signed in August 2012, aims to involve Nokia and other companies (Siemens, Alcatel and the other main operators on the Kenyan market) in the development of 4G. Another PPP signed on 25 October between the Kenyan Government and Nokia aims to promote the use of mobile phones for start-ups. In this context, Nokia has pledged to train students and support start-ups.

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