International Helvi Sipilä Seminar Series

International Helvi Sipilä Seminar at the CSW since 2006

Helvi Sipilä (1915–2009) was a Finnish lawyer, diplomat and the first female Assistant Secretary-General of the UN. Sipilä received numerous national and international awards including twelve honorary doctorates, and she was granted the honorary title of State Minister in 2001. She held global leadership positions in several organisations, including the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the International Council of Women.

Helvi Sipilä’s profession in law was exceptional in the 1930s and 1940s. When she announced the opening of her own law firm in 1943, she became the second woman in the Finnish history to do so, and she had her private practice as a lawyer over 30 years. Being a private entrepreneur enabled her to engage in extensive social activities, including services as a member of the Finnish government missions abroad.

While Assistant Secretary-General, she was appointed Secretary-General for the UN World Conference on Women in Mexico 1975, and she was able to co-create the UN Fund for the Advancement of Women, established in 1976 during the UN Decade for Women 1976–1985. When in July the 2nd 2010, the four UN women’s entities were formed into the UNWomen, UNIFEM was also included in this new UN body.

Helvi Sipilä was a well-known and respected advocate for equality and women’s rights. She was the invited keynote speaker at the Special Session of the UN Assistant Secretary-Generals held at the CSW49 in 2005 and due to her high age of 90 years her presentation was pre-recorded but it mesmerized the live audience in the United Nations Conference room in Manhattan. The International Federation of University Women IFUW’s Finnish delegate to the CSW49, Ms. Leena-Maija Laurén, the Convener of the IFUW Status of Women Committee, was listening this unique speech in the NYC, and she could witness how impressed all in the live audience in 2005 were to hear and see this unique presentation by the highly esteemed Ms. Sipilä from Finland. After this experience amongst an international group of women at the UN, Ms. Laurén innovated the idea of an International Seminar Series in the name of Helvi Sipilä. This historical proposal was then presented in Finland to Ms. Helvi Sipilä asking her for the right to use her name in the future seminar titles and to dedicate the series at the UN CSW meetings to her. She liked this proposal and approved it.

Over the years, the seminar format has been the same: (i) to arrange one annual, International Helvi Sipilä Seminar with a subtitle as the working subtheme selected from the UN CSW annual themes (ii) to find a short name to the seminar subtitle, like some wording Ms. Helvi Sipilä herself would say to her sisters. (iii) to invite International and Finnish experts to speak at the seminar. Most of the International Helvi Sipilä seminars’ opening greetings have been by the Finnish Minister who for that particular year was the Head of the Finnish Delegation to the CSW in NYC. The unique feature of the seminar series in the settings of NGOs at CSW, is that it has an annually changing topical theme and the same five Finnish women’s organisations as the arranging team. Ms. Leena-Maija Laurén was the first chair of these International Helvi Sipilä seminars for several years.

The first international Helvi Sipilä Seminar was organized at the CSW50 in 2006 under the theme “She has Power in her Hands” to commemorate the Centennial (1906-2006) of Finland being the first country in the world to grant the Full Political Rights to all citizens over the age of 24 years.

The past seminars

  • 2006 She has Power in her Hands
  • 2007 Girls Shaping Our Futures
  • 2008 Fatal Financing
  • 2009 She Says NO to Violence
  • 2010 She Says YES to POWER
  • 2011 She Says YES to Education
  • 2012 She Says YES to Economic Empowerment
  • 2013 Ending Violence against Women – Global and Nordic Perspectives
  • 2014 She Says YES to Maternal Health
  • 2015 Gender, Power and Economy
  • 2016 Women at the Heart of Peace and Security
  • 2017 Empowered Futures – Sustainable Economies
  • 2018 Rural Women in a Changing World
  • 2019 MY BODY IS MINE – How Free Contraception is linked to Empowerment and Education, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEcAOVI1-j0
  • In 2020, the seminar was canceled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
  • 2021 MY BODY IS MINE Trafficking in Human Beings -How to Protect Women and Girls?
  • 2022 MY BODY IS MINE – Legislation, Consent and Women’s Rights, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL79UHbV5i8

 

This page has been last updated 8.3.2022