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UK launches new global women and girls’ strategy on international women’s day

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Press release

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly launches new women and girls’ strategy during a visit to his mother’s hometown in Sierra Leone. The strategy aims to tackle increasing threats to gender equality from climate change, humanitarian crises, conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, and recent attempts to roll back women’s rights, including in countries like Iran and Afghanistan. The foreign secretary also announces a new emphasis on supporting grassroots women’s rights organisations, and funding for a sexual and reproductive health and rights programme that will support an estimated 10 million women

Women and girls will be put at the heart of the UK’s international work, with a new strategy that will tackle gender inequality across the globe.

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Launched on International Women’s Day, the new strategy will set out how the UK will work to tackle global gender inequality at every opportunity, including combatting attempts to roll back women’s rights, and work with partners around the world to do the same. For the first time, this strategy commits the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to more than 80% of its bilateral aid programmes including a focus on gender equality by 2030.

Progress towards gender equality is increasingly under threat. Climate change and humanitarian crises continue to disproportionately affect women and girls, there are attempts to row back on women’s rights including in countries like Iran and Afghanistan, sexual violence is happening in conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere and violence against women is growing online.

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.

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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.”

The strategy also 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.

It commits the FCDO to involving its entire network of high commissions and embassies around the world to deliver the strategy. This will include UK heads of mission developing plans and commitments specific to their host country and raising the most pressing issues with their host governments. The UK will also develop an ambitious new research offer to help the UK and its partners make investment decisions.

The British High Commissioner to the Gambia, HE David Belgrove said

“The FCDO women and girls’ strategy means using all our diplomatic and development capabilities to improve lives, embolden and amplify women’s organisations, and stand up to those intent on holding back women and girls. Here in The Gambia, we will weave this strategy into everything we do.

We can only build a fairer, freer, safer, wealthier and greener world if we put women and girls at the heart of our work. Gender equality brings freedom, boosts prosperity and trade, strengthens global security and builds resilience.  Women’s leadership, perspectives and knowledge are essential for local, national and global progress”.

Alongside the strategy, the Foreign Secretary will announce a new women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights programme, focused on sub-Saharan Africa, which has some of the highest rates of child marriage and maternal mortality in the world.

Reaching up to 10.4 million women, the 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, the UK is also increasing support for women’s rights organisations and movements, recognising their critical role in advancing gender equality and protecting rights, and amplifying grassroots women’s and girls’ voices. Most of this £38 million programme will be delivered through a new partnership with the Equality Fund.

Background

This is the first international Women and Girls Strategy that brings together all the UK’s development and diplomacy work. The Department for International Development (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 percent of FCDO bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) programmes targets gender equality as a policy objective by 2030.

It will use the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) gender equality policy marker to track this.

“We are announcing up to £200 million towards the WISH (Women’s Integrated Sexual Health) Dividend Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights programme, focussed on sub-Saharan Africa a new £38 million programme will support women’s rights organisations (WROs) and movements around the world. £33 million of this funding is for a new partnership with the Equality Fund. Up to £5 million is going to a consortium led by Gender Links, a South African-based women’s rights organisation,” the release added.

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