My most recent Muswell Flyer article…
In September, I started my new ministerial job as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development. The days prior to reshuffles are always tense – so I was not only very relieved when Nick Clegg informed me that I would be staying in Government – but thrilled to bits to have this particular portfolio.
Though I absolutely loved doing equalities work in the Home Office, I was very happy to return to International Development, which I used to shadow in opposition. The Coalition commitment to 0.7% is a standout commitment – not only of doing what is right – but also doing what is smart and in our country’s best interests.
One of the highlights so far has to be my meeting with the president of Malawi, Joyce Banda. I was so pleased to have an early opportunity to meet with this powerful woman who is determined to move her country in the right direction – economically, constitutionally and to repeal the ‘bad laws’. We spoke about two key issues affecting Malawi – food security and gender-based violence.
My international visits will mainly cover sub Saharan Africa. However, my portfolio also includes the European Union and policy areas such as gender, climate change, health and education, post 2015 Millennium Development Goals, extractives, private education and disability – to name but a few that I have responsibility for!
It isn’t all new, though. In 2010 the Prime Minister appointed me the international ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas. As part of this role, I travelled to Ethiopia and Uganda in April this year to campaign for women’s rights and to see the issues they face in developing countries. This role comes with me to the Department for International Development. Women and girls will continue to be my number one priority in DFID.
I’m also very happy to be carrying on my work on Female Genital Cutting (FGC) – an awful practice which has the most devastating and long lasting effects on women and girls. This is a subject which has been largely ignored in the mainstream – but there is now real momentum in Africa to tackle the issue. It’s now my ambition to see FGC abandoned within a generation.
Judging by the number of emails and letters I receive – my constituents are also very interested in international development issues. I certainly look forward to being able to update everyone on what I’m doing in DFID, alongside my local work in Hornsey and Wood Green.
One of the things I particularly love about my constituency is the diversity. Where else are 100 languages spoken in such a concentrated area? And now, I consider myself very lucky to have the chance to visit many of the countries that my constituents are from!
All of my Muswell Flyer articles are available here