I was honoured be invited to speak on such an important topic at this one day conference, part of the International Parliamentary Conference on the Post-2015 Agenda. Looking back over a decade of the MDGs we see some impressive changes, but we still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality.
Every goal in the MDGs relates to women in some way, so progress in several areas has had a positive impact. Big advances under MDG 2 have led to increases in girls’ enrolment in primary education. Changes as small as introducing street lighting in a community in Lesotho have made all the difference in enabling girls to travel home safely from secondary school.
However there is still a gender gap in school completion rates, with far fewer girls than boys finishing their education. We know that 99% of maternal deaths are caused by poor education and poverty, which makes tackling these issues together even more important.
As we look beyond 2015 the commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment remains a key international priority, but the MDGs will not be replaced with a similar set of tasks. Instead we will take a new approach, focusing on building partnerships to tackle wider issues.
It was great to hear parliamentarians from around the world speaking so powerfully on these issues and as the Right Honourable Baroness Armstrong of Hilltop emphasized in her speech, this is not just about increasing women’s access to power, but increasing their influence in politics, society and beyond.
As we commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, it is important to remember that gender equality and women’s empowerment are not abstract targets. These are human rights to which every woman and girl is entitled.
I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the delegates from Voluntary Services Overseas, The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, and the parliamentarians from around the world for making this such an engaging event.