Is development a feminist issue? Parliamentary event: 3rd July

The short answer is yes.  Women are half of the world’s population, yet make up 70% of the world’s poor.  Girls are more than 70% of the 125 million children not in school, and make up two thirds of the world’s illiterate people.  Pregnancy and childbirth killed 287,000 women in 2010, and fewer than half of pregnant women in low income countries had access to skilled healthcare when giving birth.  One in three women around the world will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

When women speak up about what is happening, they too often experience violent backlash.  The case of Malala, a young woman in Pakistan campaigning for education, was one high profile case, and sadly there are many more women hurt or killed for their commitments to women’s rights.

To compound these issues, globally women make up fewer than 20% of parliamentarians, so their voices are lost when decisions are made about the future of their countries.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, and women are not to be underestimated.  Despite the barriers they face, women are often at the forefront of contributing to development in their communities and countries.  There are actions we can take in the UK, to campaign in solidarity with women in the global south, and call for a fairer world.  

Please join LCID and Fabian Women’s Network at our joint event to discuss these issues and more.  It promises to be an invigorating information-sharing evening to build knowledge of the issues affecting women in developing countries.  A diverse panel of speakers, including Rushanara Ali MP from Labour’s Shadow Development team, and ActionAid’s Mel Ward,  will discuss the ways in which women are affected by and involved in international development.

A participatory Q+A session will encourage participants to share their experiences and learn from each other.  Focus will be given to learning and action – how we can build solidarity with women in the global south, support their advocacy for equal rights and a better world, and ensure that their voices are heard by the UK government and the Labour party.

The event takes place on July 3rd, 6.30-8.30pm, Committee room 6.  To reserve a place please email claire.smith@st-hughs.ox.ac.uk.

Harriet Harman’s letter to Mitchell

Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary, has written to Andrew Mitchell about topical questions at International Development Questions in Parliament. You can read her letter below and we all look forward to this change being implemented in time for the next International Development Questions on 16 February

Dear Andrew, 

I am writing to confirm your agreement that we should have topical questions at Oral PQs and to ask that we introduce the change soon – for Oral Questions next week if possible.

Of course oral answers to questions tabled up to three days ahead provide vital accountability to the House. But there are occasions, indeed there have been in the last two questions sessions, where there has been a sudden emergency situation overseas and where the House would like to hear of the government’s response from yourself and your ministerial team. We agreed when we met that topical questions can ensure that these questions can be asked without relying on the luck of the draw of tabled questions providing an opportunity to raise this. It is not desirable for the House not to be able to raise important emergencies or to have to do so obliquely to get the Question “in order”. Indeed doing it like this often leaves the rest of the House, and no doubt the public, baffled.

I am grateful for your agreement that we should have topical questions. I agree that proceeding by way of 10 minutes’ topicals at the top of the orals, followed by 20 minutes of tabled questions, is the best way of doing it. I understand that the Speaker and the Leader of the House have no objection to this.

I look forward to your support and action to make this change, if possible, in time for next orals on 16th February.

I am releasing this letter to the media.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development