SPEECH: Baroness Liz Sugg "Her Potential, Our Future"

International Development Minister Baroness Sugg delivered a speech about UK aid’s commitment to women and girls’ rights at the Women Deliver Confernce in Vancouver on 3 July 2019. In which she discusses the importance of education, preventing violence, and DFID's support of the Women Deliver Advocacy Academy to provide really intense, hands-on training for grassroots activists from around the world on critical projects.

‘Her Potential, Our Future’

Good evening everyone.

It’s a real pleasure for me to be surrounded by so many inspiring women and men ahead of the Women Deliver Conference. And thank you to our co-hosts Spring Accelerator for your partnership this evening.

This is my first Women Deliver conference – and I am really looking forward to listening to and meeting such a diverse range of women’s rights champions, from global leaders to the people pushing for change in countries every day.

And Women Deliver is an opportunity to celebrate our successes, to renew our commitment to women’s rights, and of course to find better ways to work together.

Never has this work felt more urgent.

I don’t have to tell any of you that we are facing uncertain times in women’s rights.

And we are witnessing a global rollback of those rights.

And there are people around the world who do want to control women and who want to restrict their choices, and frankly to deny them their rights.

But we are also seeing women and men rising up to defend these rights and questioning injustices that have been around for decades.

And I think the sheer scale of this conference is a testament to the global momentum on gender equality.

I am personally committed to continuing the UK’s strong leadership on this agenda.

I’ll fight for women’s rights on the international stage, and in the communities we work in. I’ll work closely with our partners like Canada on gender equality.

And I will reach out across DFID and to our partners to ensure we really step up our work on gender equality.

I know that the UK’s support is seen as vital in this space – through the significant funding we provide and also through our voice on the world stage.

And last year, we set out our Strategic Vision for Gender Equality. And we are taking a comprehensive approach that includes all three themes for this conference: individual power, structural power and the power of movements.

UK aid is making a difference – we are stepping up our efforts.

We continue to support and build the individual power of girls and women across the countries we work in. I am proud that UK aid has enabled millions of women in the world’s poorest countries to access the life saving sexual and reproductive health services that they need and want to use.

And we are working to ensure that all girls around the world get at least 12 years of quality education, including of course those most marginalised, especially girls with disabilities.

And we know that adolescence is a particularly important time where the future trajectory of a girl’s life is decided. And of course it is also a time of particular vulnerability when girls have little control over their lives.

And we’re stepping up our work on empowering girls. This includes a new £12.5 million programme in Rwanda to support 200,000 adolescents to build effective life skills that will help them to navigate the key decisions they need to make and encourage them to stay on in formal education.

We also recognise the importance of structural power and tackling the barriers and discrimination that keep too many women and girls from properly fulfilling their potential.

We know that violence devastates lives, destabilises societies and constrains women and girl’s ability to fulfil their potential. But we’re really proud of our new ground-breaking findings from our What Works to Prevent Violence programme and that’s going to be considered at Women Deliver here this week.

And because of that we do know that violence is preventable and we must now work to scale-up what’s proven to prevent violence against women and girls in all its forms. I am pleased to announce a new £12 million programme in Zimbabwe that will work with communities to tackle the drivers of violence and provide survivors of violence with the services that they so sorely need.

And the evidence shows us that we can only create lasting and truly transformational change when we join up with the power of movements.

In the UK we have spent the last year celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage and the heroines who fought for our right to vote.

And we must continue to support women’s rights organisations and activists of course, to push for change and hold to account their own governments and that’s really key to ensure that we will actually see the change we all want to achieve.

This is of course particularly important in fragile and conflict-affected states, where women are too often seen only as victims rather than the really powerful agents for change which of course we all know we all are.

So I am delighted to announce that DFID is supporting the Women Deliver Advocacy Academy to provide that really intense, hands-on training for grassroots activists from around the world on critical projects. And I think that’s really something that Women Deliver can be really proud that they’ve achieved, is that hand-on training and really affecting change within communities.

And we’re going to hear more about this exciting and crucial programme – delighted to hand over to Joy Zawadi – she is part of the advocacy academy and will tell us more about her personal experiences fighting for women’s rights.