Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about gender-based violence and the rights of women and girls around the world.
I fully support the 16 Days of Activism campaign. Gender-based violence (GBV) is a moral emergency with devastating impacts. It is alarming that, according to UN Women, one in three women globally experience physical or sexual violence. I agree that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office must strengthen the UK’s work on gender equality and ending violence against women and girls.
We must focus on tackling the root causes of GBV to make long-term, sustainable progress towards eliminating it, and focus on addressing the fundamental, structural causes of gender inequality.
I share your concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls around the world. Analysis commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme and UN Women suggests that around 47 million women and girls will be pushed into poverty by 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
UN Women has also said there has been a significant increase in the rates of violence against women and girls, with a subsequent impact on the ability of civil society organisations to prevent and respond to this crisis.
Now more than ever, gender equality must be at the heart of the UK’s development policy. I believe we must increase support for women’s rights organisations in the global south, and collaborate with them to address root causes and provide long-term solutions to tackle GBV, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and the low proportion of girls who achieve twelve years of education.
As I am sure you will be aware, the UK Government has recently said it will reduce aid spending from the legally binding target of 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% in 2021, despite a manifesto pledge to maintain the 0.7% commitment. I am deeply concerned by the potential impact this will have on women and girls in the developing world who depend on our assistance. I will continue to oppose this decision.
We must continue to work towards achieving gender equality and creating a safer world where women and girls, no matter where they are, can live a life free of violence.