Author: Vicky Foxcroft, Member of Parliament for Lewisham Deptford
Throughout our history, the Labour party has fought tirelessly for the rights of women and girls. It was the Labour party that doubled maternity pay, brought in new laws on domestic violence and introduced the 2010 Equality Act. I can proudly say it is the Labour Party which has transformed the lives of countless women across the UK.
The party continues to fight for women and girls in Parliament, with—for the first time ever—a majority female PLP. However, we still have a long way to go. As I have seen too often in my own constituency, women are held back both socially and economically by domestic violence, gender discrimination at work and fear of sexual harassment.
Gender discrimination knows no borders. Globally, women make up two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population, less than 20% of the world’s landowners and 72% of human trafficking victims. Unsurprisingly, it is women in the poorest parts of the world who carry the heaviest burden. In south Asia almost half (45%) of girls are married by their 18th birthday, and women in sub-saharan Africa spend an average of 40 billion hours a year collecting water, keeping them out of school or paid work.
As an internationalist party standing for social justice across borders, Labour have always stood in solidarity with the women at the front line of the fight. Indeed, after setting up the Department for International Development (DFID) in 1997, Labour committed £100 million to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) to improve reproductive health and give women real choices, and DFID’s support to the Government of India’s universal elementary education programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), helped get millions of girls enrolled in school between 2003 and 2006, bringing enrolment up to 96%.
We must continue to champion the rights of women and girls everywhere. Whether it’s women in my constituency of Lewisham Depford, or girls around the world who are denied access to an education, the Labour party must continue to lead the way in fighting injustice at home and abroad, to build fairer, safer and more inclusive communities, in which no woman is left behind.