Estonia’s national statement at 67th UN Commission on the Status of Women

67th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women

Statement by the Republic of Estonia, delivered by Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mr Rein Tammsaar

14th March 2023

Excellences, distinguished members of delegations and representatives of the civil society,

Estonia aligns itself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union. Please allow me to add few elements in my national capacity.

Madam/Mr Chair,

Innovation, technology, and education are defining topics of the 21st century. The rapid digital and technological development have transformed the way we interact with each other and how we make sense of the world. However, mentioned transformation often carries over the same old inequality patterns and gender stigmas we try to tackle in the physical world. Therefore, and rightly so, this year’s Commission on the Status of Women is focusing on how to better use technology and digital innovation to create an inclusive and non-discriminatory digital space in order to provide equal opportunities to all women and girls.

After restoring independence in 1991, Estonia has strived to take the pioneer role in digital innovation. Our exemplary e-government services, e-residency program, e-voting system shouldered by the growing tech industry are all testament to this, providing easy access to state services for everybody. For example, recently we had our Parliament elections, where not only a record number of women got elected into the parliament, but over 50% of our citizens voted online from all over the world.

It would have been absolutely great if the universal digital education and success of a society would automatically translate to a gender equality. However, women in Estonia represent only 30% of the graduates of ICT, 25% of workforce in ICT and 17% of the founders of start-ups. Fortunately, there is a wider acknowledgment in Estonia that gender mainstreaming and equality needs to be further developed.

To improve and encourage women’s participation in ICT sector, Estonian private sector has been in the lead in implementing number of initiatives in recent years. Couple of examples:

  • First, a program was created which provides free robotics and technology classes specifically meant for girls in schools;
  • Second, a special coding school for adults was set up where last year half of the applicants were women;
  • Lastly, flexible upskilling courses, seminars, and internships are offered to women in order to support potential career changes to ICT sector.

On top of this, beginning of this year Estonia is implementing a reformed victim support framework to guarantee improved quality of coherent services.

Madam/Mr Chair,

The basic precondition for the peaceful development in any country is security, stability and absence of the external threats. Sharing a border with a neighbor who continues to stomp on the principles enshrined in the UN charter, diverts much needed attention and resources away from education, social and economic development. Ukraine suffers the most: Russia´s terror has put 40% of the Ukrainian population, mostly women and children, in need of urgent humanitarian aid and it is Russia that is using sexual and physical violence, exploitation and abuse against innocent civilians as a war tactic. While their mothers are being killed or raped, thousands of Ukrainian children are being held in filtration camps, deported to Russia and/or are subjected to forceful adoptions. Russia should stop its war of aggression immediately and withdraw its troops from Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders.

Since February 2022, Estonia has opened its borders to over 65 000 Ukrainian refugees, which makes about 5% of our population. 74% of them are women who form 40% of currently employed Ukrainian refugees in Estonia. The support for Ukraine has not only been provided by the state but also by Estonian people and industry, as our tech companies are increasingly seeking ways to offer Ukrainian women an opportunity to jointly develop our ICT sector.

In conclusion:

We should use this opportunity and our presence here in this session of the Commission on the Status of Women to learn from each other’s best practices. Tackling and preventing gender-based violence, both offline and online, should be our common priority.  Estonia believes in innovative, smart and tailor made inclusive solutions that provide equal opportunities to all women and girls. We are ready to work with everyone to achieve these noble goals.

Thank you!