By Bukar Bolori
The United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, has launched the global Women and Girls strategy which will set out how the UK will work to tackle global gender inequality at every opportunity.
According to a statement on Tuesday from British High Commission; this will include combatting attempts to roll back women’s rights, and work with partners from around the world to do the same.
The statement read that: “For the first time, this strategy commits the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to ensuring that at least 80% of its bilateral aid programmes include a focus on gender equality by 2030.”
It said that: “Progress towards gender equality is increasingly under threat. Issue like climate change and humanitarian crises continue to disproportionately affect women and girls. Attempts to row back on women’s rights, increasing incidents of sexual violence in conflicts in Nigeria, Ukraine and elsewhere, and the growth of violence against women online are compounding the problem.
The statement recalled that at the launch event in Sierra Leone on 8 March, the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said:
“Advancing gender equality and challenging discrimination is obviously the right thing to do, but it also brings freedom, boosts prosperity and trade, and strengthens security – it is the fundamental building block of all healthy democracies.
“Our investment to date has improved lives around the world, with more girls in school, fewer forced into early marriage and more women in top political and leadership roles.
“But these hard-won gains are now under increasing threat. We’re ramping up our work to tackle the inequalities which remain, at every opportunity.”
According to the statement, the new strategy puts a continued focus on educating girls, empowering women and girls, championing their health and rights and ending gender-based violence – the challenges the UK believes are most acute.
The strategy also commit the FCDO to involving its entire network of High Commissions and Embassies around the world to deliver the strategy. This will include the British High Commission to Nigeria developing plans and commitments specific to Nigeria and raising the most pressing issues with the Government of Nigeria.
Speaking on the development, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria Catriona Laing said: “Nigerian women lead on the global stage and across different sectors, however many women and girls continue to experience high levels of exclusion and marginalisation. It’s important that every girl and woman has the opportunity to reach her potential, live in freedom, and exercise her rights.
“That is why the UK is investing in areas that we know are fundamental in transforming the lives of girls and women in Nigeria.
“Through our programmes and advocacy, we are supporting women and girls affected by the conflict in North East Nigeria and tackling gender-based violence.
“Our girls’ education programmes have already supported 1.5 million additional girls to access schooling in six states since 2012.
“We have also been supporting civil society to increase political representation and participation for women in this years’ elections and to promote the inclusion of women in political.”
The statement revealed that alongside the strategy, the UK will also develop an ambitious new research offer to help the UK and its partners make investment decisions. In addition, the Foreign Secretary announced a new women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights programme, focused on sub-Saharan Africa, where there are some of the highest rates of child marriage and maternal mortality in the world.
The statement added that reaching up to 10.4 million women, this programme will receive up to £200 million and is expected to prevent up to 30,600 maternal deaths, 3.4 million unsafe abortions and 9.5 million unintended pregnancies.
Separately, as we recognise the critical role Nigerian Civil Society are playing to advance gender equality, protect rights and amplify the voices of women and girls at the grassroots level, the UK is also increasing support for women’s rights organisations and movements. In Nigeria, this includes a new partnership with the Equality Fund, the statement said.
In her comment, co-CEO of the Equality Fund, Jess Tomlin said: “We’re really excited about this partnership because it shows that every sector can come together–with boldness and urgency—to deliver resources to women’s rights organizations everywhere. A just, sustainable, thriving future depends on the solutions of feminist movements, and it’s time for all of us to trust and robustly resource their leadership at scale all across the world.”
This is the first international women and girls strategy that brings together all the UK’s development and diplomacy work. DFID produced a Strategic Vision for Gender Equality in 2018. This new strategy is broader, reflecting all the work of the merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
• The FCDO Women and Girls Strategy commits that at least 80% of FCDO bilateral ODA (Official Development Assistance) programmes targets gender equality as a policy objective by 2030.