Development isn’t just a feminist issue; it’s the frontline of feminism

Development isn’t just a feminist issue; it’s the frontline of feminism”. So said Melanie Ward, Head of Advocacy at Action Aid, just one of the inspiring speakers at LCID and the Fabian Women Network’s event ‘Why Development is a Feminist Issue’ held in Parliament on Wednesday night. Joining Melanie on the panel were Ivan Lewis MP and Rushanara MP from the Shadow DfID team; Lee Webster of Womankind Worldwide; Ida Horner; Dr Jay levy of AMREF; and the night was chaired by LCID’s co-Chair, Claire Leigh.

The event’s purpose was to bring together a diverse range of feminists, development practitioners and Labour supporters to discuss the crucial overlapping issues of feminism and development. The speakers covered well-trodden ground with renewed verve and new insights. Ivan Lewis kicked off the debate with an overview of Labour’s position on the necessity to place women’s rights issues front and centre of development work, especially in fragile and conflict states. He talked about the support and solidarity those in the West can give to the women who are the victims of sexual violence in conflict in the Global South, and Labour’s goals for the post-2015 agenda for women. He reminded us that in so many instances – from Northern Ireland to Liberia – women are central to peace-building and peace-making activities.

Rushanara Ali spoke next, and reminded the audience of the inspiration we can take from the Match Girls strikes of East London in the 1880s – and what can be learned from this movement to apply to the plight of the (largely female) workforce that were injured or killed in the recent Bangladeshi factory disaster. She urged us to consider, as feminists, the way that we hold to account national and international companies for failing to uphold labour standards and safe working conditions.

The pandemic of violence against women was a significant theme of the evening, and speakers expressed collective outrage at the lack of global funding dedicated to challenging this pandemic in the same way that the world has responded to other crises, such as HIV. We were reminded of countless recent episodes of horrific violence against women – from acid attacks to honour killings, FGC to the Delhi bus rape and murder, sex trafficking to sex tourism. The need to engage progressive and supportive men in the movement was agreed, as they are the critical enablers who can lead progress towards the end to violence against women.

Despite discussion of the atrocities committed against women daily, the debate had an air of positivity. From all speakers, the message was one of action, solidarity and finding ways to tackle development issues from a feminist’s starting point. All speakers acknowledged that women are not passive victims but are fighting back across the world at violence; as feminists, it is our duty to lend them our support to help all women create positive changes in their own community.

Sarah Kennedy is Secretary of LCID and Development Director of the Kenyan charity S.A.F.E. (www.safekenya.org)

David Morrissey says ‘Keep the Promise’

At the Gleneagles summit in 2005, the G8 countries made a promise: their aid budgets would be increased to 0.7% of their national income. Now, just 6 years later, there are already signs that some of those countries are failing to live up to their word. The Labour Party, with Harriet Harman at the helm as Shadow International Development Secretary, is demanding that the UK is not added to this list.

Speaking out today, actor David Morrissey has spoken out today, saying “there is much to be proud of, but there’s also much to be done. You can watch the video here

Visit the Keep the Promise website to find out more about Labour’s work, both in Government and in opposition, on increasing aid for the world’s poorest.

Standing up for women around the world

Speaking yesterday at the start of the 55th Commission on the Status of Women, Harriet Harman took the opportunity to welcome the launch of UN Women, which was officially launched.

“This is a very important meeting. It will see the official launch of UN Women and bring together women from around the world.

“There can be no retreat from the Government’s promise to spend 0.7% on development aid by 2013. Women and girls around the world are helped by aid– from the woman in Nigeria who no longer has to walk for miles to get water, to the girl in Bangladesh who can now go to school. We must not turn our backs on them now.

“Women in the developing world must not be made the victims of deficit reduction programmes, as they are in the UK, where the government’s cuts are hitting women the hardest.

“UN Women will support the women in parliaments and in governments across the world – they are the ones who will fight hardest for the women in developing countries. UN Women will play an important role in backing them up to ensure progress for the women they represent.”

Harriet was joined by Fiona Mactaggart, Shadow Equalities Minister, who will sit on the Commission, highlighted the importance of UN Women. She said: “At the Interparliamentary Union meeting which coincides with the session I will be working  with colleagues in other parliaments and governments to make sure that UN Women works with elected women to advance the condition of women throughout the world.”

As Shadow International Development Secretary, Harriet Harman has made it clear that female elected representatives will be key in improving the lives of women across the developing world. This was a fact that she reinforced last week at the launch of the Keep the Promise campaign, which was hosted by LCID.

 

Huhne can easily stay in Cancun: Call Ming or Charles!

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne today risked embarrassing the UK delegation at the UNFCCC talks in Cancun by threatening to return home to vote for a large rise in student tuition fees. The UK has taken a lead role in negotiating the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Huhne has attempted to blame Labour Leader Ed Miliband for failing to pair him up with a Labour MP voting against the hike in fees. However, he seems to have conveniently forgotten to ask rebels within his own party. At least 10 Liberal Democrat MPs are expected to vote against the bill tomorrow, including former leaders Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell. He could also pick up the phone to Conservative party rebels and request to pair with one of them.

There is even a potential Liberal Democrat rebel MP in Cancun with the UK delegation – Martin Horwood MP told the BBC earlier this month he would likely vote against. Instead of pairing with Horwood, Huhne is cynically attempting to boost the Government position by asking Labour MPs to cancel out his support.

He has sought to spin his way out the Liberal Democrat’s internal fiasco by blaming the Leader of the Opposition.

David Taylor, Chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development said:

“This decision comes down to Huhne’s political priorities: Would he rather help broker a key global deal on climate change or hike fees on students? He could have called on one of his rebel Lib Dem colleagues to pair with him, or are relations so bad within Lib Dem ranks that he’d rather turn to Labour?

“The choice is his alone – and certainly not Ed Miliband’s.”

Harriet’s first speech outlines some critical areas for international development

Harriet Harman speaking at ActionAid

This article was originally posted on Left Foot Forward.

This morning, shadow international development secretary Harriet Harman gave a speech at ActionAid headquarters in London. Marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Ms Harman outlined six key priorities for the future of international development:

1. Realising the 0.7 per cent GNP pledge for aid;

2. Strengthening women’s rights around the world;

3. Support for remittances (money sent by people in developed countries to their family members in their country of origin);

4. Trade, tax and global growth;

5. The role of development in conflict prevention; and

6. Meeting the needs of developing countries in the fight against climate change.

It was that first point that Ms Harman concentrated on to make a direct call to the government:

“We cannot have succeeded in the struggle to have a new UN women’s agency only to discover that its governing board is men. That would be to contradict everything that it stands for.

“And the executive board should reach out beyond women in the UN missions and women in governments and include women in civil society organisations.”

In order to achieve this and to ensure the UK’s position as a world leader in women’s rights, Ms Harman decried the fact that among the Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministerial teams, there was not a single woman.

She said:

“We [Labour] are calling on the Government to make a ministerial appointment of a woman to carry on the work that Glenys Kinnock was doing when we were in government – a role you campaigned for. She led the UK’s work on tackling violence against women overseas and she did a great job.

“The first time such an appointment had been made in the UK. That was important leadership and the government must continue it.”

Well, the government must have been half listening as Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone has, just today, had ‘International Violence Against Women Champion’ added to her brief. Potentially stopping well short of what Ms Harman called for, there is little indication as yet as to what authority Ms Featherstone will have, nor what resources she will have at hand to make a difference to the lives of women across the world.

On remittances, Ms Harman drew on the experiences of many in her constituency, including a report she compiled in 2007:

“I call them the ‘hidden heroes of international development’. People living in my constituency who come from Sierra Leone, Nigeria or Ghana who are living here and working hard bringing up their families. Sometimes doing more than one job, like office cleaning.

“As well as paying their taxes and providing for their family, they also send money back to their home country… But I think we can and should do much more to support remittances.”

It was clear from the passion in her speech that Ms Harman looks determined to make a difference in her new role. Before the election, there was cross-party consensus on the enshrining of the 0.7 per cent law; it was now Labour’s role, she said, to press the coalition to ensure that this Bill is put before Parliament. In a time where the government seems to turn with the tide, Labour:

“… doesn’t want to risk this being the next promise abandoned.”

Left Foot Forward has previously written about a worrying lack of ambition, ideas or leadership emanating from the coalition on international development. With these six points, Harriet Harman has once again demonstrated that Labour is providing leadership on this issue – the focus on trade, tax and global growth is therefore particularly welcome, and LCID looks forward to hearing more on the shadow team’s proposals.

You can read ActionAid’s news from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women here.

By Tim Nicholls

Brown gives evidence to the select committee

Earlier this week, Gordon Brown gave evidence to the International Development Select Committee, warning that increased protectionism during the global recession would hurt African development.

The BBC have a great article about the session and you can watch footage of Brown’s evidence here.

As you may know, we won’t meet the MDGs on current trends – we’re way off-track. The sanitation target within MDG 7 for example won’t be met in Africa until the 23rd century – 200 years late. It’s a desperate situation, and it was good to see the Select Committee focus on the MDGs. At LCID we’re hoping this signifies a decent focus on international development in the coalition’s plans.

At LCID, we’ll be focusing on the MDGs over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more.

Read Harriet Harman’s letter to LCID’s members

When she was appointed Shadow International Development Secretary, we wrote to Harriet Harman, congratulating her on her new brief and telling her about our work. Harriet’s been back in touch with a letter addressed to all LCID’s members, making it her passion for development clear.

We are really excited about building on the great foundations that we made with the Labour Party over the last 9 months and we’re glad Harriet is as keen to work with us too.

Here’s her letter:

Dear LCID Member

I wanted to get in touch in my role as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development,  firstly to thank you for all your hard work to date and secondly to outline some of the areas we will be focusing ahead on going ahead.

As you know Labour has much to be proud of when it comes to international development. From tripling the international aid budget to our leadership at Gleneagles we put the UK at the forefront of the fight against global poverty and I am immensely proud of that.

In these difficult economic times and faced with this Government’s deep cuts to public spending it is more important than ever that we make the argument for international development. We cannot turn our backs on the world’s poorest – not only is it morally right to ensure everybody, no matter where they are born, can grow up free of poverty but it is in our national interest. I hope you as an organisation will continue to work to communicate that message.

Moving ahead we will be working to hold the government to account for their promises. We welcome the commitment they made in the Spending Review to reach the target of 0.7% of our GNI on Aid from 2013 but we are worried about how they will get there. That is why we will be calling on them to introduce legislation as soon as possible so there can be no doubt about their commitment.  We will also be urging them to make sure that poverty reduction remains at the heart of our development policy – that is the best way to ensure it is truly effective.

Finally, with the new United Nation’s Women’s agency we, as a party, have a real opportunity to support efforts towards greater gender equality. Of course there are many more areas of international development policy that we will be discussing in the months ahead and I look forward to engaging with you in those conversations.

Labour has a strong International Development team working in parliament. Mark Lazarowicz MP is our Shadow Minister of State, and Rushanara Ali MP is Shadow Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. We all greatly look forward to working closely together with the Labour Campaign for International Development  in the future.

Regards

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development