Two genders – one future

On International Women’s Day (last Friday) I spoke at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference Rally. Here is the full text of my speech:

Good evening, Conference…

It is a great pleasure to be speaking to you on International Women’s Day…

The day the world celebrates the women and girls who have made great strides on behalf of all of us in overcoming inequality…

Women like Shirley Williams, who is my political heroine and a powerful inspiration for all liberal British women…

Please join me in another round of applause for her…

International Women’s Day is also when we show solidarity with those who continue to suffer discrimination and violence simply because they are women and girls…

Conference, it is shocking and shameful what suffering so many women experience right across the globe…

In the 21st century, it is unbelievable that women aged 15 to 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence…than cancer, car crashes and malaria put together…

It is shocking that 15 year old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala was shot simply because she dared to want an education…

And it is horrific that a young Indian woman could be targeted, gang-raped and left for dead – just for being a woman…

Violence against women and girls is the most prevalent abuse of human rights on the planet…

This is not some second tier issue, or a preoccupation only of the privileged…

It is not a women’s only issue…

What affects half of the world’s population, affects all of us…

And frankly, International Women’s Day should not just be once a year – it should be every day, every year…

But, Conference, you already know this…

We are Liberal Democrats…

We know and believe that inequality, wherever it may fester, must be stamped out…

And Liberal Democrats in government are working hard to support women and girls – at home and abroad – and help them live the lives they would choose to live…

I am the UK ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas, and in September I became a minister in the Department for International Development…

Jobs that I believe make me the luckiest Lib Dem in government…

In my new role I’ve travelled to African countries, and I’ve seen first-hand the difference we can make…

Conference, I wish I could take everyone in the UK to these places so they could see what I have seen.

In Uganda, I remember seeing a woman with stumps for arms trying to carry a baby. Her husband had cut her arms off to punish her…

In Zambia, I remember meeting a 12 year old girl who had been raped by her uncle…

In South Sudan, I remember seeing hundreds of women, struggling after years of civil war and famine had left their children stunted.  They made stoves out of animal faeces, to try and cook nutritious food and become more sustainable…

This is why I’m proud that Britain is a world leader in international development, respected widely for how effective our work is…

Thanks to this Coalition Government and the Girls’ Education Challenge that Nick Clegg launched in 2011, two and a half million girls across the developing world will get into primary school…

Nearly 250,000 women have their property and land rights secured…

One million more women have access to modern methods of family planning…

And as I announced in New York earlier this week, when I was representing the UK at the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women…

I want Female Genital Mutilation ended within a generation…

To make this happen, the UK is becoming the world’s biggest investor – committing up to £35 million – to stop this most extreme form of gender-based violence…

But Conference, you already know what a difference UK aid can make…

Liberal Democrats are internationalists, and we understand instinctively why supporting the world’s poorest people is the right and smart thing to do…

I am proud that this year the Coalition Government will deliver our manifesto commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on overseas development…

I am prouder still that our party continues to stand behind this commitment…

No doubt it is a controversial decision to increase the UK’s aid budget while other domestic spending is being reined in…

But as we have said time and again, we are not going to balance our books on the backs of the world’s poorest…

And – don’t forget – preventing war is cheaper than fighting it!…

Conference, to conclude…

Equal marriage is my proudest achievement in government to date…

But our ambition and dedication should be set just as high to advance gender equality across the globe…

The Liberal Democrat message to those who fight for dignity, respect and equality – wherever in the world it is denied – is we see you, we hear you, we stand with you….

This effort requires all of us – especially brothers, fathers, nephews, uncles, sons, partners and husbands – all who care for the women in their lives…

Good men must not sit back…

Good men like Nick Clegg are helping to lead the charge…

And I am so pleased that Liberal Democrats in government are delivering fairness…

Not just for British women, but for women everywhere…

We may be two genders, but we have only one future…

Thank you…

One thought on “Two genders – one future

  1. Pingback: Lynne Featherstone MP visits Hornsey School for Girls on International Women’s Day | Lynne Featherstone

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