Mari Skåre, Norway's Ambassador to Afghanistan Talks to Seele

Today is International Women's Day and Seele chats with Mari Skåre, Norway’s ambassador to Afghanistan. She joined the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991 and has extensive experience from the Foreign Service.

Mari was the first NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security and has served as Minister Counsellor and Deputy Permanent Representative at the Norwegian Delegation to NATO, as well as Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Norwegian Embassy in Kabul. Previously, she also served as counsellor and legal adviser at the Norwegian Mission to the UN.  Ms. Mari Skåre holds a master degree in law from the University of Oslo.

Mari with Adele Khodr, Representative, UNICEF Afghanistan  Photo Credit: Mahdy Mehraen, UNICEF

Mari with Adele Khodr, Representative, UNICEF Afghanistan

Photo Credit: Mahdy Mehraen, UNICEF

Seele Magazine: This year's International Women's Day theme is: Press for Progress. What does that mean to you?

Mari Skåre: The slogan ‘Press for Progress’ makes a lot of sense to me! 8th March is a great day to celebrate, reflect and claim women’s rights, but it is the steady work though out the 364  other days of the year that will make the difference. To make head way in the struggle for gender equality, we need to keep national and world leaders accountable.

SM: You were the first NATO Special Representative of the Secretary General for Women, Peace and Security in Brussels. What did you take away from that role? And why are women's issues important for nations to recognize?

MS: It was a privilege for me to hold this position. I learned a lot and hope I became a better person. However small the steps might be we can make a difference, and I am grateful to good colleagues and partners that walked with me.

There is no such thing as women’s issues! Both men and women have a responsibility for ending discrimination based on gender. If our competences and experiences are not included, we miss out opportunities to resolve the problems we face today. It is simply not rational to exclude half of the population.  Women’s participation is good for prevention, management and resolution of conflict. It is good for building peace. We cannot afford not to include women. This is not simply a question of what benefits women, but of what benefits the whole society - men and women, boys and girls.

Photo Credit: Mahdy Mehraen, UNICEF

Photo Credit: Mahdy Mehraen, UNICEF

SM: In all of the positions that you've had representing Norwegian foreign affairs around the world, what is one experience that you have seen where women issues have been noticed and positive change has occurred?

MS: Girls access to education is absolutely essential for women’s empowerment and peaceful and prosperous societies. In my present role as Norway’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, it has been such a pleasure for me to meet with female Afghan students. One visit was to Herat in West Afghanistan together with UNICEF. Important progress has been made in Afghanistan, and it is great to see that the political leadership press on for changes in mindsets and changes through practical policies, but challenges persist. Corruption is omnipresent in Afghanistan and undermines quality education. Too many children are still out of school. In conflict areas it seems like the gender gap in schools is increasing. Norway is a longstanding friend to Afghanistan. Girls education is a key priority in our partnership and we press for progress!