Norway Celebrates the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage

Norwegians campaigning for American women's right to vote in New York, 1913. Photo: Arthur Gran/Norsk Folkemuseum

Worldwide, International Women’s Day on 8 March is an annual event to celebrate the progress of women in society and to focus on remaining issues of gender equality. In Norway, this year’s 8 March calls for special celebrations as 2013 marks the centenary of women’s suffrage and Norway becoming a true democracy.

Every year, Norway celebrates International Women’s Day. 8 March is marked by peaceful demonstration marches in communities throughout Norway intended to show solidarity, and to bring focus to current society issues involving women either at home or in other parts of the world.

In 1913, Norway was the first independent country in the world to introduce universal suffrage for both men and women. 100 years later, gender equality remains a fundamental value and, as such, a pillar of Norwegian society. Norway's devotion to the equality of sexes is well illustrated by a quote from Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg 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." No wonder then that Norway is celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage all through 2013.

Among the events is a large-scale national celebration on Women’s Day with additional events taking place at local, national and international levels. The celebrations will highlight the significance of the 1913’s suffrage decision as a landmark in Norway’s history, and commemorate further developments that have taken place over the past Century. They will also look to the future, and to what can be done to safeguard and develop our democracy.

The Women’s Day celebrations will be followed by a series of events throughout the year. In the lead-up to the 2013 Norwegian general election in September, the Government intends to use the centenary to raise awareness of and commitment to the principles on which our democracy is based, such as the right to vote, equal opportunities, participation and representation. In doing this, the Government wishes to foster commitment to the right to vote with a view to ensuring that as many people as possible do so in the election.

Gender equality is one of Norway’s greatest foreign policy focus areas. The government will use the centenary to put women’s political rights on the international agenda by gathering world leaders to an international conference on women’s empowerment later this year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also mark the centenary by sharing Norwegian experiences of gender equality internationally. Norway’s message abroad will underline the importance of gender equality to a country’s welfare and gender equality as smart economics. 

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