Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, yesterday addressed an audience of key policy makers at a reception looking forward to International Women’s Day. He announced a new Special Envoy for Gender Equality, Joanna Roper. Joanna will spearhead the UK’s efforts to deliver a coherent international approach to ensuring the rights of women and girls, working closely with Whitehall departments, civil society, academics, and other governments.
The Foreign Secretary spoke of his personal commitment to addressing gender inequality in all its forms. He argued in particular that unequal access to education, itself flowing from gender prejudice and discrimination was a major barrier to women’s empowerment.
Speaking at the event, the Foreign Secretary said:
The sombre truth is that today 61 million girls between the ages of 6 and 14 do not have the chance to go to school. They have the same right to an education as anyone else – and at least as much potential and ability – but too many girls in too many countries endure the supreme injustice of being denied the opportunity to attend school.
If you want to increase prosperity; stabilise population growth; improve child nutrition; and reduce child marriage, the single most effective remedy is to ensure that all girls go to school.
I hope that every national leader will wake up to the benefits - and the essential justice - of educating the daughters of their country just as surely as they educate their sons.
The FCO is taking forward the global agenda of equality support projects to increase women’s empowerment around the world, challenging gender stereotypes of what a “traditional” women’s role is.
Justine Greening, Minister for Women and Equalities, described the continuing efforts to promote gender equality in the UK. By marrying up the domestic and international aspects we showcase UK leadership in this field giving us greater credibility to encourage like-minded partners and to advance action on gender equality in multilateral fora.
Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, said:
No woman should be held back in life because of her gender and I’m incredibly proud of this government’s work to help women around the world to fulfil their ambitions. Here in the UK we now have record numbers of women in work, and we have more women than ever before on the boards of the UK’s top companies. Internationally, our investment in foreign aid is helping girls in the developing world to get an education.
We have much to celebrate ahead of International Women’s Day – but there is still more to do. We are going further to deliver economic empowerment for women by requiring large employers to publish their gender pay gaps for the first time ever. We have pledged to eliminate all violence against women and girls, backed by £80 million funding. And we are supporting girls to take careers in male dominated industries so we have better gender balance in our workplaces.
On her new appointment, Joanna Roper, Special Envoy for Gender Equality, said:
I’m delighted to have been appointed as the FCO’s first ever Special Envoy for Gender Equality. This is really important work. Gender inequality is still too common. We must break down the barriers that hold women back.
More than 350 people attended the event held at the Foreign Office, including a number of ministers and Parliamentarians, including Emily Thornberry MP, Dominic Grieve MP and Jess Phillips MP. Civil society organisations including Stonewall, Womankind Worldwide and Oxfam and senior diplomats also attended.
Joanna Roper, FCO Special Envoy for Gender Equality