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.
The strategy which was launched on International Women’s Day (March 8) 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 working 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 per cent 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.
James Cleverly, the foreign secretary 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 which 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.
“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 foreign secretary will launch the new strategy in Sierra Leone, where he is visiting a school and a hospital in his mother’s hometown of Bo, to see how UK-funded projects are having a positive impact on
women and girls.
In the hospital, he will see how UK support is improving blood banks and equipment, increasing electricity access and saving the lives of pregnant women. In the school, he will hear about girls’ aspirations
for the future. The UK is supporting students there to talk about preventing violence.
The strategy puts a continued focus on educating girls, empowering women and girls, championing their health and rights and ending gender-based violence, a challenge the UK believes is most acute.
It commits the FCDO to involve 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.
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.
Jess Tomlin, co-CEO of the Equality Fund said: “we’re really excited about this partnership because it shows that every sector can come together with boldness and urgency to deliver resources to women’s rights organisations everywhere. A just, sustainable, thriving future depends on the solutions of feminist
movements, and it’s time for all of us to trust and robustly resourcetheir leadership at scale all across the world.”