Working together to End FGM

In a truly fair society, no woman or girl would be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is gender-based violence – it is unacceptable and it needs to stop.

But over 60,000 girls in the UK are vulnerable. That’s why I recently held a conference for North London professionals to discuss working together to end FGM.

You can watch a video from the conference here:

As you can see, over 100 health workers, social workers, teachers, police and community group representatives gathered at Hornsey School for Girls.

It was a great event – with sessions for each sector, mixed sessions to discuss an integrated approach to tackling FGM, speeches from survivors and a presentation from students.

There is still a lot of work to do to raise awareness and to protect vulnerable girls. But conferences and conversations like this are important steps in the right direction.

Tackling violence against women in Burma

Final blog from my visit to Burma last week – including meeting Aung San Suu Kyi. Also available here.

Last week I spent 2 days in Burma, the last foreign country I will have visited as the UK’s champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas. And what a fascinating 2 days it was meeting Burmese civil society groups, women’s rights campaigners, government ministers as well as the iconic Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burmese women suffer discrimination and violence as the direct result of decades of military rule and conflict, and due to widespread displacement. In Kachin State and Rakhine State in particular, there are reports of women and girls being raped, tortured and trafficked. The restrictions on the freedom of movement put on the Rohingya people in Rakhine means they are even more vulnerable to violence – so not only are they ineligible for citizenship, vilified by extreme Buddhists and kept out of basic education and healthcare, they’re trapped too. And Burmese women have little to no access to human rights protection or justice, and they are grossly under-represented in public life. Only 6% of parliamentarians are women and there are very few women at the top table in the national peace negotiations.

So for me, the big questions I wanted to explore in Burma were these: What hope is there for Burmese women and girls from all ethnic groups? Is there any hope that President U Thein Sein’s reforms will include improving their lives?

No one could answer these questions with complete confidence after just 2 days. But what was clear to me is that right now there is a window of opportunity, a moment that could be seized, that really could make a big difference to the lives of ordinary Burmese women and girls. And here is why.

Since 2011, the new government has signed ceasefire agreements with 14 out of the 16 main ethnic armed groups, released the majority of political prisoners (though not all of them), suspended censorship (though not intimidation of journalists), eased internal travel restrictions and endorsed the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), spearheaded by the UK government. Indeed, on Friday I observed a UK Defence Academy training course for the Burmese armed forces, police and senior civil servants on international law including UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Lynne Featherstone speaking at the UK Defence Academy training course for the Burmese armed forces, police and senior civil servants on international law. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID
Lynne Featherstone speaking at the UK Defence Academy training course for the Burmese armed forces, police and senior civil servants on international law. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID

In parallel, civil society is gaining a greater voice in Burmese society. On Thursday I visited a PSVI-funded legal clinic, run by ActionAid, for women who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence. The clinic is training female paralegals to provide legal advice and referrals to victims, and male youth leaders to influence men and boys in their communities to abandon the old ways and respect the rights of women and girls. I met some of these trailblazing paralegals and youth leaders and was so impressed by their dedication and leadership to change Burma for the better.

Lynne Featherstone with paralegals and youth leaders at the PSVI-funded legal clinic, run by ActionAid. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID
Lynne Featherstone with paralegals and youth leaders at the PSVI-funded legal clinic, run by ActionAid. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID

I also held a roundtable with women’s rights campaigners, including the Women’s League of Burma and spoke with a group of young female peace activists from around the country about their fight for an equal voice in the peace process and political reforms.

Roundtable with women’s rights campaigners, including the Women’s League of Burma. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID
Roundtable with women’s rights campaigners, including the Women’s League of Burma. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID

More evidence of the window of opportunity for real change in Burma is that an unusual degree of attention is being paid to the international community and Burma’s reputation within it. And there is a lively debate about how the UK should engage with Burma, among people inside and outside Burma.

Lynne Featherstone chats with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID
Lynne Featherstone chats with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Picture: Monica Allen/DFID

This was a major discussion point during my meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s most popular, famous and inspirational politician. She is supportive of DFID’s work in Burma, especially our bottom-up approach on working to strengthen civil society and local communities. But she is concerned that the international community is giving too much leeway to the current Burmese government, and I agree that getting the balance wrong is all too easy.

Nevertheless I ultimately agree with the Commons International Development Committee, chaired by my colleague Sir Malcolm Bruce, which looked into the UK-Burma relationship last spring in light of the recent reforms taking place in Burma. The committee endorsed the Coalition Government’s approach of supporting reformers in the Burmese government to raise the country out of poverty, develop the economy and build a society that moves towards democracy.

Overall, all the Burmese people I met had one thing in common – they are all dedicated to making their country a better place for all Burmese people and they are making a noticeable difference. Even “just” breaking taboos and starting a national conversation about gender-based violence is a major step. In a country where most people would say it just doesn’t exist, a national conversation would be an enormous step in the right direction.

Tackling violence against women in India – day 3

Also available here.

My last day in India was spent back in New Delhi and I could write a whole blog just on my first meeting of the day with 10 young people! They’re part of the ‘’ initiative, funded by DFID, which selects 100 passionate young people, mentors them and supports them over the course of 1 year to lead creative projects that challenge discrimination in their communities. Nearly half of these young leaders are women.

One of them, herself the daughter of a sex worker, works with children from red-light districts in Kolkata to break the silence on sexual violence. She uses comic workshops and theatres as a means for the children to express themselves to wider society.

Another was a young woman from Patna in Bihar state who runs a girls club for adolescent Muslim girls, where she works with them to value their worth as human beings and understand their rights.

And another was a young man from Delhi and wheelchair user, who mentors a group of other wheelchair users to challenge perceptions of disability in their community.

I could go on and on about each of these young people, but suffice it to say they were all incredible and humbling. The work they do to challenge the accepted norms and end discrimination in their communities takes tremendous courage and grit. Not least because it has come at a cost to each of them. Some have been practically disowned by their families, criticised or worse by their neighbours or physically threatened and put under police protection simply for asserting that men and women are equal. I salute them and hope their determination never fades. In fact, I’m confident I met some of the future leaders of India among them.

From one group of inspirational campaigners to the next, over lunch I met with a more experienced bunch: 16 leading women’s rights activists, ranging from lawyers and doctors to social workers and communications professionals at the top of their fields, all dedicated to empowering Indian women. We had a lively discussion on a range of issues including the Indian government’s commitments so far on gender equality, the notorious 2012 bus gang-rape, domestic violence, violence in the workplace, gender-based abortion rates, and the linkages between education, sanitation and safety in public spaces.

But 2 things always stick with me after discussions like these. First, the domino effect of women’s reactions to the fear of violence, which impacts on so many decisions women make for themselves and their families. Like whether to venture out at night and whether to take a job that means coming home after nightfall. Whether to go to the market if it’s already too late in the day. Whether it’s just too dangerous to send a daughter to school. Whether it would be better to marry a daughter off earlier in order to protect her.

Second, how no country can afford to relegate gender equality to some niche ‘women’s issue’. Gender equality should be a shared aspiration, with responsibility on both sexes. After all, men and boys are the only people who can end violence against women and girls.

Luckily Ms Maneka Gandhi, minister for women and child development, agreed with me on this latter point when I met her later in the afternoon, and I hope that she can deliver her ambitious agenda of equality measures.

Finally, my last meeting of the day was with campaigners against acid attacks, including an attack survivor. Acid attacks in India are relatively new, and they may be on the rise as they are in other parts of the globe. According to the campaigners, there are acid attacks in India once every 2 days, a truly shocking statistic.

I believe this is one of the worst forms of violence against women – not just because of the multiple surgeries required over years and the exorbitant medical costs that can follow, or the deep psychological trauma they inflict, but also because acid attacks stem from the simple, oppressive idea that women must be punished for rejecting men. The survivor I met was attacked by her neighbour because she rejected his advances. Five litres of acid thrown at her because she bruised his pride.

In the end, the attitude in India about violence against women has really changed in the 4 years between my 2 visits. Because of the horrific Delhi bus gang-rape in 2012, violence against women, especially in the public space, is no longer a taboo subject. The conversation has been dragged out of the shadows and into the cold light of day. This is an important step, but it’s only 1 step. Change on the ground, including implementation and enforcement of the law, must follow soon and for all Indian women, not just for those loud and strong enough to fight for it everyday. India has made such amazing economic progress in recent years by force of sheer will. That same determination and stubborn leadership is required urgently for half a billion of India’s citizens, and the UK will also stand ready to help in any way we can.

I’m now off to Burma for the final leg of this visit. One last update to follow soon.

Tackling violence against women in India and Burma – day 2

Also available here.

Yesterday was day 2 of my visit to India on the theme of violence against women, and I spent the day meeting people in some of the poorest areas of Madhya Pradesh. It was an incredibly informative and inspiring day, so I’m afraid quite a lengthy blog follows!

Even though Madhya Pradesh has seen a phenomenal 10% economic growth rate in the last five years, the state is struggling to bring everyone along in this progress. Over 30% of the state’s population live below the poverty line. And what is abundantly clear right across the world is that where there is poverty, violence against women and girls is more likely.

En route from Indore to Bhopal, the state capital, I visited a Dalit community who, like the rest of their caste around India, are socially excluded from their village and wider society on a daily basis. And this exclusion perpetuates their poverty. Discrimination against Dalits makes it far more likely for them to be turned away from government services, even cheated out of land possession and entitlements like ration cards. And when they can access services, they are still discriminated against; Dalit children are often made to sit outside classrooms and are served food separately so that others are not ‘polluted’ by them.

Lynne Featherstone meets the Dalit community. Picture: Anshuman Atroley/DFID India
Lynne Featherstone meets the Dalit community. Picture: Anshuman Atroley/DFID India

Dalit women and girls often suffer the greatest indignities – most of India’s 1.3 million so-called ‘manual scavengers’ are female. For those unfamiliar with the euphemism, manual scavengers clean up the excrement of other castes with their bare hands to eke out a meagre existence. So I was very keen to meet some of these women and try to understand how they live.

You might be surprised to read I came away with some hope! Thanks to a partnership between the DFID-funded Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme and the Jan Sahas Development Society (which literally means ‘people’s courage’), Dalit women are being helped to stand up and demand their rights as human beings. Thousands of families have been helped out of manual scavenging and trained in alternate employment. Jan Sahas also brings violence against Dalit women to the attention of the government and media.

Of course there is a long way to go yet. I spoke with some Dalit women who had been raped by men from upper castes and are struggling to receive any justice. Though they worked up the courage to report the crimes against them to the police, they and their families have been repaid with threats and intimidation, not just by their rapists but the police themselves.

Nevertheless, I found hope in that more and more Dalit women and girls are standing up for themselves and demanding their rights. And when I asked what they thought about their future prospects, it was really heartening to hear a group of Dalit children tell me they were confident their future is going to be brighter than their mothers’.

Lynne Featherstone visits India's first and only one-stop crisis centre for women. Picture: Anshuman Atroley/DFID India
Lynne Featherstone visits India’s first and only one-stop crisis centre for women. Picture: Anshuman Atroley/DFID India

And all of that was just yesterday morning! I also visited India’s first and only one-stop crisis centre for women, located within a hospital, which brings together medical, legal and psycho-social support under one roof to help women out of whatever emergency they’re facing. I understand the Indian government plans to roll these centres out across the country, which would be an amazing advancement in supporting vulnerable women. I used my meetings with ministers in the state government to say how encouraged I was by progress so far and pressed them to keep the momentum up.

I also spent an hour in a Bhopal slum learning about a safe city initiative to tackle violence against women in both the public and private spaces. Quite rightly, this initiative brings together women and men, girls and boys to make their community safer for all. After all, everyone must be bought in to really make an area safe. So, for instance, the community works together to map areas of the slum where violence has occurred. I also saw demonstrations of inventive ways of engaging boys on the agenda – from a Snakes and Ladder game that challenged social norms about masculinity to a role-play drama about a woman escaping a drunk and abusive husband. And I was shown an innovative, DFID co-funded mobile phone app called SafetiPin that is utilised in Bhopal, which collates information like how safe an area is and emergency locations and numbers, and links to GPS tracking and well-monitored alarm features. I’m sure urban British women would also value an app like SafetiPin!

Lynne Featherstone being shown the Snakes and Ladders game that challenges social norms about masculinity. Picture: Anshuman Atroley/DFID India
Lynne Featherstone being shown the Snakes and Ladders game that challenges social norms about masculinity. Picture: Anshuman Atroley/DFID India

I’m now back in Delhi for a few more meetings before heading off to Burma. More updates tomorrow.

Tackling violence against women and girls in India

I’m currently in India – here’s my first blog from the visit, also available here.

Since 2010 I’ve served as the UK’s first ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) overseas, and developing this role has kept me quite busy. From the UN to the UAE, I’ve compared notes with ministers, officials and civil society groups in capital cities and with community groups in the most rural villages on how we can end this global epidemic.

Yesterday I began my final foreign mission on this important agenda – to India and Burma – and it was a long and interesting day. After an arrival briefing from our High Commissioner and senior staff in New Delhi on the key issues related to VAWG in India, I met a group of LGBT activists and campaigners who talked to me about their fight for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. I always find it fascinating how inter-linked gay rights and women’s rights are right across the world. Both issues challenge patriarchal traditions and in many cases across the world, gay rights quickly follow movement on women’s rights.

In the afternoon I flew to Indore in Madhya Pradesh – India’s sixth most populous state with 72 million people – and met with prominent civil society representatives and local government leaders who work on tackling VAWG on a daily basis. It was very encouraging to see NGOs and government officials debating these issues openly together – a good sign that they’re used to working together! And the scale of the problem in Madhya Pradesh will require them to collaborate for a while yet; among women aged 15-49, 45% have experienced physical violence and over 59% of girls in rural areas are married before the legal age of 18.

This is my second visit to India as VAWG champion – the first was in 2011 – and it’s already clear to me that some progress has been made since then. The shocking Delhi bus rape case in 2012 has prompted a national conversation that continues today. It’s no longer just feminists, aid organisations and governments like the UK trying to bring attention to the issue; there is now, finally, a national movement for the protection and empowerment of women.

To be clear, there is a long way to go in India. But I believe India has the political leadership in place to take some great steps forward on this issue.

More updates from Madhya Pradesh tomorrow.

Lynne Featherstone MP nominated for another MP of the year award

Lynne Featherstone MP working as International Development ministerLynne Featherstone MP has been nominated for ‘MP of the Year’ award. The awards are being hosted by the Patchwork Foundation, in association with 3FF, Mosaic, UpRising and The National Union of Students.

The Patchwork Foundation believes in promoting and highlighting best practice in the area of under-represented, deprived and minority community engagement. The society rewards MPs who work closely with such communities and deliver excellent representation and coverage to otherwise underrepresented segments of society, by acknowledging them as ‘MP of the Year.’

The ceremony will take place on Wednesday 5th November.

The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green has also been nominated for the ‘Politician of the Year’ award by Stonewall, for her work on equalities.

The Liberal Democrat MP was nominated by one of her constituents, who said:

“Lynne has worked hard to help minority groups. She has pushed hard for better NHS funding and support to help those who are deprived and rely on the NHS services more than most. She always shown support for the BME community and recognises the vital role BME communities play in the UK and that they need to be supported further.”

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“It’s such an honour to be nominated for this award by one of my constituents – I’d like to thank them for taking the time to put me forward.

“I am lucky enough to represent a very diverse area of London – with over 180 languages spoken in my constituency alone. I do my best to meet as many of the local communities as possible, to see if there are any issues I can help with. I also keep them informed about my work as an international development minister, and the many visits I make to Africa.”

Breaking the silence: violence against women in Somalia and beyond

Here’s a blog from my recent visit to Somalia. I went in my capacity as Minister for International Development, and UK Ministerial Champion for tackling violence against women and girls abroad. 

When you think of Somalia, you probably think of Black Hawk Down, Al Shabaab terrorism and piracy. But if you’re born a girl in Somalia, you face so many other risks, both severe and everyday.

Decades of war and humanitarian crises have given Somalia a reputation as one of the worst places to be woman or a child in the world. Girls and women suffer disproportionately from violence and instability. One in 16 women will die during childbirth, and 1 in 10 will die during her reproductive years. Whilst data is scarce, it is thought that 98% of Somali women have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).

Last week I became the first DFID minister to spend a night in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. I was there in my capacity as the UK’s ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas, as part of a fact-finding and awareness-raising tour to break the silence on an issue that can no longer be taboo. So far my tour has taken me to the United Arab Emirates to tackle the issue of gender-based violence in refugee camps, and I am now in Bangladesh, where two-thirds of girls are married before their eighteenth birthday. All countries suffer from violence against women and girls. We’re all located on a spectrum of violence, and we must help and learn from each other to end it.

Lynne Featherstone with the Somali minister of Women and Human Rights. Picture: DFID Somalia
Lynne Featherstone with the Somali minister of Women and Human Rights

Back to Somalia. There is a nascent movement in Somalia to end FGM, and the Federal Government of Somalia as well as the governments of Somaliland and Puntland, committed to eliminate the practice at the Girl Summit the coalition government hosted in London in July. But new research suggests that while there is widespread support in Somalia for ending the most extreme and medically egregious form of FGM, known as ‘pharaonic’ ‘type III’ or infibulation, the majority of Somalis still supports ‘sunna’, which can involve anything from a small nick to the full removal of the clitoris, removal of flesh, or stitching. People are also now going to medical facilities to undergo FGM, with the help of health professionals, in the belief it is more hygienic. So we’ve got a long way to go.

Lynne Featherstone with the Somali minister of Women and Human Rights and the Gender Based Violence Working Group. Picture: DFID Somalia
Lynne Featherstone with the Somali minister of Women and Human Rights 

But my visit confirmed that there is reason for hope. I met ministers, religious leaders, NGOs, men, women and girls who were all committed to ending FGM. Every one of them had the same message: ‘sunna’ is not OK, and they will not have won until they have eliminated all forms of FGM.

I talked to girls from an amazing girls’ club in Somaliland. Formed to provide vocational training and address gender-based violence issues in their community, its members were eloquent and open. They had succeeded in breaking the taboo of talking about FGM – even with the men in their families and communities.

And I heard about Somalia’s efforts to tackle gender-based violence in conflict, including the development of a sexual offences bill.

But one particular issue seems hardest to tackle, and that is domestic violence. It affects so many women across the world: 2 women a week are killed by their partners or ex-partners in the UK, and 1 in 4 women in the UK suffers domestic violence at some point in her life. In Somalia, there are no data on domestic violence, but in a place where the prevalence of FGM is so high, we can assume that domestic violence is happening in everyday life.

Lynne Featherstone visits the Girls' Club which works to increase awareness of the health impacts of female genital mutilation. Picture: Health Poverty Action
Lynne Featherstone visits the Girls’ Club which works to increase awareness of the health impacts of female genital mutilation. Picture: Health Poverty Action

I asked a group of women at a maternal health clinic whether they had suffered domestic violence. Silence. But when I asked whether they knew any women who had been beaten by their husbands, every one of them put up their hand.

The girls’ club told me that the right to beat one’s wife was a widely accepted social norm. But when I asked whether they felt it was a good social norm, they were vehement in their answer: absolutely not.

It’s through young leaders such as these girls that we can really change the future. If these girls refuse to cut their daughters, the cycle ends. If these girls speak out against domestic violence, it can end too.

Through them, we can break the silence, and stop violence before it starts.

A Tribute to Efua Dorkenoo

Here’s a statement from Jane Ellison MP and me, following the sad passing of Efua Dorkenoo. Also available on Huffington Post.

We learned with very great sadness of the passing of Efua Dorkenoo OBE on Saturday 14 October.

We had the honour of working closely with Efua for some years, and she was deservingly known as ‘Mama Efua’, the mother of the movement against FGM. Efua worked tirelessly for many decades, most recently as Programme Director for the International Social Change campaign, The Girl Generation’.

But Efua’s pioneering work began in the early 1980s and since then, she dedicated her career to the cause, and was a powerful voice for the rights of women and girls, ensuring that FGM survivors and girls who need protection remained at the heart of her life’s work to eradicate FGM.

Her vision and leadership has brought us all to the position today where FGM is recognised as a grave violation of human rights, as well as a health issue with devastating consequences.

Thankfully she lived to see her dream of an African-led global campaign realised.

Efua enjoyed a long and varied career, including working as an adviser to the World Health Organisation. In 1983, her services to women and girls were recognised when she received an OBE (Order of the British Empire). She of course also authored the groundbreaking publication ‘Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation’ (1996).

Efua was a truly inspirational woman, and it was a great honour to work with her.

We will continue to remember her, in our work to achieve her vision to end FGM in a generation.

Surely there can be no greater tribute to her than this – that we work tirelessly to protect future generations of the girls she cared so deeply about.

Our thoughts are with her husband Freddie and her family at this very difficult time.

South Sudan's leaders must do more to end crisis

Here’s a blog from my recent visit to South Sudan, also available on the Huffington Post.

While the eyes of the world rightly look towards global crises in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine and West Africa, there is a serious and worsening humanitarian disaster almost going unnoticed in South Sudan.

It is deeply saddening to see a country that was once so full of hope for the future, now embroiled in such a painful and destructive war with itself. When I first visited South Sudan less than two years ago I was struck by the optimism and hope that filled the air but today it is an entirely different story.


Since December violence has spread through the country forcing 1.7million people to flee their homes. The conflict between the Government and Opposition party supporters has created in its wake one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Some 400,000 people are now refugees in neighbouring countries, numbers the UN expects to double by December.

And yet the situation could get worse as the threat of famine looms large. This year’s planting season has been neglected by people fleeing their home to escape the violence and aid agencies have warned of the risk of food shortage. Already people are dying from food insecurity and the UN predicts that some 50,000 children could die of malnutrition before the year is out, even before famine is formally declared.

It is an increasingly desperate situation and last week I visited South Sudan to see for myself just how severe it is. It is clear that even now there are already chronic food shortages. At an International Rescue Committee nutrition centre in Ganyliel Town, I saw many children suffering from malnourishment. I met a young mother whose infant child was severely under-nourished and had severe medical problems. Her struggle to feed her child with the limited supply of food available to her was deeply moving.


The UK has contributed £125million to help those caught-up in this crisis. This includes £30 million I announced during my visit for refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. This will help deliver food, shelter, basic hygiene needs, safe water, immunisation and essential supplies such as mosquito nets, kitchen sets and fuel. But the UN’s Crisis Response Plan remains under-funded, and we desperately need other donors to contribute more too.

The truly appalling tragedy about this crisis is that it is wholly man-made. Ultimately aid cannot fix the problem, only help deal with the consequences. South Sudan’s leaders must accept full responsibility for starting the conflict and now must work to end it. Politicians need to honour the agreements they have already made, but ignored, to stop the fighting. These were the messages I delivered to the South Sudanese Government during my visit, and which they and leaders of the armed opposition need to hear loud and clear from us all.

Lynne Featherstone MP gives talk on development to Muswell Hill volunteers

Lynne Featherstone addresses the soup kitchen volunteersLynne Featherstone MP on Saturday joined the Muswell Hill Baptist Church soup kitchen volunteers for a reflective practice session.

Around 25 volunteers attended the session to discuss ‘what is poverty?’ The Liberal Democrat MP, who is also a minister in the Department for International Development, gave a talk on her experiences visiting Africa and witnessing extreme poverty there.

The talk was followed by a questions session, chaired by the Soup Kitchen founder Martin Stone. During the session, the local MP agreed with the volunteers that there was a need to tackle poverty in the UK, and highlighted measures taken by the Liberal Democrats to help alleviate poverty here.

These include raising the personal tax allowance, which takes thousands of low paid and part-time workers out of paying tax altogether, and the introduction of free school meals for all infant school pupils.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“It was a pleasure to meet with the dedicated soup kitchen volunteers, to discuss the important issue of tackling and alleviating poverty – at home and abroad.

“In my ministerial role, I have witnessed acute and devastating poverty in Africa. Through the Department for International Development, aid, support and education are provided to those most in need.

“Though, poverty is of course relative to the society in which you live, and there are also people in this country who struggle to buy enough food or keep a roof over their head. Both of these issues must be tackled.

“That’s why, in the UK, the Lib Dems have taken measures like raising the personal allowance, giving mid – low paid workers an £800 tax cut. Hundreds of thousands of part-time and low-paid workers have been taken out of paying tax altogether.

“I’m always happy to discuss these issues with local residents. The work Martin Stone does at the soup kitchen is just fantastic, and I’d like to thank him for giving me the opportunity to speak to the volunteers.”