Partnerships, empowerment and 16 days of activism with Henric Råsbrant, Swedish Ambassador to the DRC
Sweden, a valued and long-standing partner of UN Women, has supported projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many years. With an unwavering dedication to gender equality and women's empowerment, they have a clear vision for the years to come: to continue providing UN Women flexibility with their funds, so that projects can be implemented in the areas that need it most.
UN Women DRC sat down with Henric Råsbrant, Swedish Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2019, to talk about this long-standing partnership and, evidently, the topic of this year's 16 Days of Activism. His message: the 16 days are a time to remember that we must UNITE and invest our time and efforts to continually fight against gender-based violence, and break the silence on this subject.
Sweden has been a partner of UN Women for a very long time, which already shows your investment in gender equality. What is Sweden's vision at a global and also national level?
I think it's really about strengthening the participation of women in society from several different perspectives, it is a transversal approach. We talk about the political participation of women, economic participation, what we also call the economic empowerment of women, but also the participation of women in peace and reconciliation processes, and most importantly, the continued fight against sexual and gender-based violence. It's about integrating this perspective of equality and the perspective of women and girls not only in projects specifically aimed at gender equality, but also in all the projects that Sweden supports globally and here in the DRC.
Could you tell us a little about your partnership with UN Women? How did it start and what is the nature of this partnership?
Yes, I think that Sweden and UN Women, you just said it yourself, have been partners for a very long time, almost since the creation of the organization at the global level, and here in the DRC too we support UN Women at country level. It's really a partnership, I would say, that comes back to this transversal perspective, this integrated approach. This is a strategic partnership, where we support the work and activities of UN Women here in the DRC by offering great flexibility. We prefer not to limit our financial support too much to specific issues or special sectors, but rather to give our partners the flexibility to decide where to channel resources so that they can channel them where the needs are greatest.
The partnership here at the country level with UN Women is such a partnership, we give UN Women the opportunity to really put money where UN Women thinks there is a greatly needed. This is what is ultimately most important, in order to support the Congolese authorities, of course, at the national, provincial and also local level.
At country level in. the DRC, you support the strategic note of UN Women in order to offer the flexibility that you have just spoken about. In this context, you also invest a lot in women's political participation activities. What do you think about the importance, now that we are in an electoral period, of the political participation of women and the participation of women in decision-making spheres?
I think we must integrate this perspective everywhere. Political participation, the spheres where political decisions are made, is really something that is very important for the development of a society. And to be able to make well-informed decisions, both halves of a country's population, that is to say women as well as men, must also be present in decision-making. This is precisely why political participation, but also the presence of women in high-level environments where important decisions are made, is crucial for the sustainable development of a society.
What are the results of this partnership with UN Women? How has the partnership changed the lives of women and girls in the DRC?
We really support UN Women to further strengthen the advancement of these issues: the participation we have just talked about, in the political and economic spheres, eliminating gender-based violence etc. And I think that Sweden, through its support, has contributed at three different levels, national, provincial and local. We can give as an example the national secretariat 1325, where we supported the strengthening of this secretariat through the creation of their own website, to further disseminate information to women and others who are interested. I believe that we have contributed to seconding the perspective of gender equality, not only at UN Women and in its activities, but also in the United Nations system in general, because this is also where UN Women has an important role to play, precisely to consolidate this integrated approach. We also helped, for example, in activities in humanitarian situations, where UN Women can play an important role.
We support various national, local and provincial partners through UN Women. I think that is perhaps ultimately what is most important. I met several actors, several speakers who are very involved in these different women's networks, precisely to strengthen gender equality. Through UN Women, we were also able to contribute to their activities, their work and we were able to support them, to reinforce the capacities of very committed people, here in the DRC, with regard to gender equality.
We are in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism campaign. This year, the theme is: UNITE! Investing to prevent violence against women and girls. Would you like to send a message to women and girls, or to the Congolese authorities, on this theme?
Sweden is here to support this ongoing fight, this fight against sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, who are the most vulnerable.
What is very important with these 16 days of activism is to remind us all of this ongoing struggle. The 16 days of activism give us all the opportunity to once again raise these questions. Also, what's always crucial is to break the silence around these issues.
We can look at ‘investing’ in different ways, from different perspectives. Of course, we can see it from a rather educational perspective. We can see it from a rather political perspective. We can see it from a rather pecuniary perspective, speaking of resources. Of course, there is always a continued need for resources. But it's not just that for me. Because in front of this word from this year, it says ‘UNITE’. I think we must not forget this word, that we must also invest in unity. You have to invest yourself in this ongoing fight. You have to give your time, your energy. We must help to always raise these questions and we must invest in doing it together, united.
The most important message from our side is to show that we, Sweden, are here to support.
What do you foresee to further improve this partnership with UN Women?
Sweden's approach, as we talked about, is really to give a lot of flexibility to our partners. I think this is an approach that we will continue. The ongoing dialogue between us and UN Women is always very important. What we want to continue doing is to continue to further strengthen the work of UN Women at the global level, but also at the country level. We still have a lot to do together.
We also want to reinforce the work so that UN Women can continue to integrate this gender perspective, for example, into the United Nations system; but also to support Congolese actors at the national, provincial and local level, to always continue to raise these questions. This is our wish for the future.
Thank you for your time here today and thank you to Sweden for its enduring support of our activities. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the steep climb towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.