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Lynne Franks had discovered that, on 19 November 1909, the then Archbishop of Canterbury and the churches had held a mass rally for the Congo at the Royal Albert Hall, and she determined that she would repeat that 100 years to the day later. On 19 November last year we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the great Congo demonstration, this time with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, who is deeply committed to the plight of the people of the DRC, officiating. Yet again the stories of the degradation of women and children were harrowing-the grandmother raped who did not make it to hospital; the four year-old girl raped who did and, thank God, survived.
From all that, there is a ray of hope. Eve Ensler, the celebrated author of "The Vagina Monologues", told us of the City of Joy, a special facility being built by V-Day and UNICEF in partnership with the Panzi Hospital Foundation for the survivors of sexual violence. It will provide medical services, education, leadership skills, information on income generation and lessons in self-defence, and will train those women to become community activists. Most of all, the City of Joy will provide women and girls with a place to heal emotionally and to rebuild their lives, and then they will return to their homes to lead and mend those communities. The City of Joy opens on Monday-on International Women's Day-and I am sure that everyone in your Lordships' House will wish it well.
That is a supreme example of women supporting women. Closer to home, many of us speaking in the debate have encouraged and mentored other women to play their part in political or business life. One of the things of which I am most proud is my time as vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, with responsibility for candidates. In a few weeks we will face a general election. Whatever the outcome of that election, my party will look and sound very different indeed. If the British people put their trust in us, and we win by just one seat, we will have around 60 women MPs, compared with the 18 we currently have.
I hope that I will be able to take a particular pleasure in some of the election results as I will remember the part I played in helping to persuade some remarkable and able women that my party really had changed and was serious about putting in place support and mentoring of women-alongside new ways of selecting candidates-which played to women's strengths. But enlightened men have been vital in this journey; men such as my right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith, who first tasked the party with looking more like the country it aspired to lead, and then my right honourable friend David Cameron, who took action immediately he became leader to promote candidate diversity.
With determined women and enlightened men there is hope that one day we will live in a world where women are valued and play their full and rightful part in politics and business. What a better world that would be.
I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, not just for tabling today's Motion, but for her work over the years in raising the profile of these issues, particularly the importance of encouraging more women into public life: 1993 was indeed a vintage year for the House of Lords and I know that my noble friend Lady Gould of Potternewton would agree. She is not in her place today because she is at a meeting of the UN, discussing issues such as the new UN agency for women. The Commons' loss is certainly the Lords' gain.
The noble Baroness was today customarily generous in her comments. It is testament to the way in which we work in this place that we can be political but consensual on many issues. I also pay tribute to the large number of speeches we have heard today from men and women in which an extraordinarily wide diversity of issues were raised, and to the way in which they were raised.
However, I argue that although we have seen real progress on equality we know too that there is still a long way to go. In many societies, in many ways, including in our own, women still have very tough, demanding lives. As we recover from recession, those tough demands on women are continuing.
Next Monday we will celebrate International Women's Day-a time to think of women's achievements and reflect on our progress towards equality. I am certainly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and to my noble friend Lady Turner of Camden for giving a historical perspective and for demonstrating how far we have come. The noble Baroness mentioned Amy Williams and her great achievement in the Olympics. It is a fantastic achievement, but I draw noble Lords' attention to the fact that in last Sunday's Observer-the day after she had won her gold medal-I think that she was on page nine of the sports section, after many pages devoted to football.
I wish to touch on the international perspective of the issues before us. Progress on gender equality is a global aspiration. It is essential to the achievement of the eight millennium development goals agreed 10 years ago. While international development work has made significant differences to the lives of women and men, there is increased recognition that there is more to be done in progressing gender equality and women's empowerment. Women's economic participation and empowerment are key to supporting economic development and growth and are increasingly seen as a core aspect of work in developing countries. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, made a radical case, linking the economic and social success and well-being of developing countries with that of developed countries. She linked that to the participation of women at every level in those societies. I am certainly persuaded by that radical case. We should look much more closely at the arguments that she has made. These relate to the issues that were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, on the important issue of Resolution 1325. Like the noble Baroness, I am anxious to ensure that the resolution is properly implemented. She asked a raft of questions. I will reply in writing with pleasure and will place a copy in the Library of the House.
The UK Government, through the Department for International Development, have committed themselves to strengthened efforts to promote gender equality and women's empowerment-goal three of the MDGs-across all our work alongside donor partners. Gender discrimination and inequality impede progress against all the MDGs, including improved maternal health and universal primary education. The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, reminded us of the importance of MDG 5 on the improvement of maternal health and the work of the White Ribbon Alliance to promote maternal health. Population development and reproductive health are inextricably linked.
Like many others, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Rendell of Babergh on her tireless work to raise awareness about the horrific practice of female genital mutilation. I have watched the DVD she mentioned. It is deeply distressing but also in a funny way uplifting because it shows that the quality of life of some of these women whose lives have been blighted can be improved. The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, also spoke of the tragedy of the number of women who die every minute as a result of poor maternal health.
I am glad to reassure my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen that we are firmly committed to support for reproductive and sexual health in this country as well as in developing countries. My noble friend Lady Gibson of Market Rasen drew our attention to the progress being made by women in Bolivia. We celebrate their achievements and those of Irma Torres in Mexico. Pro Mujer is clearly an excellent organisation and a fine example of social entrepreneurship. As many noble Lords have mentioned today, Bangladesh is an outstanding example of what can be done. My noble friend Lady Goudie brought this issue home when she spoke of the need for more microfinance in, for example, Northern Ireland and the role that women can play.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, drew attention to health issues in developing countries that specifically affect women. I was ignorant until today about the link to blindness. I will certainly make sure that I know much more about that.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others spoke of the role of women in educating and influencing their families. My noble friend Lord Parekh linked education to the UN human development index. That is precisely why MDG 2-to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education-is so important. I am informed that this goal of achieving parity in primary school enrolment between boys and girls will be achieved in 2015 everywhere except sub-Saharan Africa. That is why this Government have prioritised girls' education especially in Africa; for instance, with our support of the United Nations Children's Fund girls education project where we have increased enrolment between 10 and 15 per cent across six states in northern Nigeria. That is certainly something to celebrate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, also spoke on education, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote. I agree with the noble Baroness that by educating girls we change cultures and societies and I can confirm that this will remain a priority for DfID. As the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, Because I am a girl is an excellent report. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, provided us with evidence of the profound impact that education has on many issues, including women's participation in democracy. We should be mindful of that and also the role that women play in countries such as Rwanda, as my noble friend Lady Gale mentioned.
Just last month, on 3 February, my right honourable friend Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, co-hosted in Cadiz with the Spanish EU presidency the biggest ever European gathering of European women Ministers. The joint declaration from this meeting called for a more balanced representation in public life and the removal of obstacles which prevent the full participation of women in all areas of society and their access and progression in decision-making positions, thus contributing to a fairer, more equal, inclusive and successful society. These are fine words and fine aims, and they are at the heart of what we are discussing today, but we need more fine action.
On parliamentary participation, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, was right that we need more women to come forward as candidates and more women on selection bodies. She was right also that women would be more attracted by parliamentary life if there was a better understanding of MPs' roles in the round and they did not see just PMQs every week-not that PMQs are a bad thing, but there is much more to parliamentary life.
This debate comes at a particularly opportune moment. We have seen in recent days and weeks considerable focus in the media and elsewhere on "feminism-40 years on". Consideration has been given to how far and in what ways equality has progressed over the decades. Although we still have some way to go in achieving the goals of the Equal Pay Act of just 40 years ago, the
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Forty years ago, things were very different, as many have said. Jobs were advertised as for men only and with differential salaries for men and women-there are still differential salaries, but they are not advertised these days. If you got married and had children, you could be fired. Women were not allowed on the floor of the Stock Exchange. Working married women still had to have their tax returns signed by their husbands.
Today, we are in a very different place. Women now make up almost 46 per cent of the economically active population. However, they still face barriers to progress in the workplace, particularly when they combine work and family responsibilities. As the Women and Work Commission, chaired by my noble friend Lady Prosser, emphasised again last year in its second report, we are still far from seeing a level playing field for women and men in our labour market.
We are committed to tackling this. The women's employment strategy, Working towards Equality, which we published last month, sets out how the range of actions we are taking to respond to the current economic challenges will address the specific needs of women and help to ensure that our labour market offers women genuine choices, equal opportunities and career structures which enable them to progress and fulfil their potential. This is not just fair to women; it is an economic necessity. As we recover from the global recession, we need to draw on all the available talents to increase our productivity and give our economy a competitive advantage.
Key aims of the new strategy, therefore, are to build a labour market where being a woman, a parent or a carer is not a barrier to opportunity or success in the labour market. Following recommendations from the Women and Work Commission, the strategy contained new commitments, including a new equality strategy for education to address gender stereotyping in education and career guidance-mentioned by several noble Lords-and increasing the amount of employment and enterprise support provided to parents in and around their child's school through the school gates employment support initiative, operating in 25 local authority areas. We will also consider and act on the report of the Family Friendly Working Hours Taskforce, set up last year. The taskforce brings together high-profile employers, organisations that act on behalf of businesses and employees, and key government departments to look at improving the availability and quality of family-friendly working practices.
However, this is not just about family-friendly working practices; it is also about things such as public transport. Just this morning, I heard on the radio a young woman called Kathy from the Forest of Dean, where I happen to live. She spoke about the barriers presented by the paucity of bus services to her being able to further her education or find employment. We have to think about these things holistically.
If we want to see how far women still have to go on the road to equality, we have only to look at women's representation on the boards of our major companies, as so many noble Lords have said. However, I do not
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The Government need to lead by example on this. Looking at the latest available figures, just under a third of public appointments are currently held by women. This is simply not good enough, so we are putting in place a programme of support to help us achieve our target for government departments to achieve a 50 per cent men-women balance in all new public appointments by 2011. I was shocked to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that only 18.5 per cent of members of Select Committees are women. I very much hope that the changes mentioned in the other place about the selection and membership of committees will have a positive effect. We should also look at what we do in this House.
If we want to achieve the goals of enabling women to participate fully in the labour market and achieve equal representation in the most senior positions, we need to look at the real barriers which women face in balancing work and home life. Women are still the primary carers of children in our society and also provide much of the adult care-looking after elderly and disabled relatives. Women are supreme jugglers. For many women, working part-time or flexibly is a good option for them to achieve a balance between caring and social work.
However, much of the part-time work available to women is low-skill, low-paid and concentrated in clerical, catering, cashiering, cleaning and caring jobs. Often the kind of work that women do is invisible and goes unnoticed, but if it was not done society would fall apart. One problem is that we do not place enough value on much of the work traditionally done by women, especially in the caring professions. I pay tribute to the many women working in this House who are largely unseen-the housekeepers-who do a very splendid job.
Before I conclude, domestic violence was referred to by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton. Many people are rightly concerned that when people are under pressure because of economic hardship, domestic violence may increase. We cannot say that we have achieved our goals for equality for women when this serious crime still claims the lives of up to two women a week. However, I am pleased to note that the most recent statistics published last July show that there was a 65 per cent decline in the incidence of domestic violence between 1995 and 2008-09. That has happened thanks to many of the initiatives mentioned by the noble Baroness. But there is no room for complacency. Last November we published a cross-government strategy, Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls, which sets out how we will progress our work to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence. The noble Baroness also drew our attention to the dreadful phenomenon of violence used by young men against girls. Our strategy builds on the initiatives over the past decade, including the cross-government national domestic violence delivery plan, which has made a real difference in supporting victims and holding offenders to account. As the noble Baroness said, we should all be active on International Women's Day, and on that day I, with the Mayor of London, will be raising these issues about domestic violence. I hope that other people will be taking part in other awareness-raising meetings and so on.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, spoke about domestic violence in some developing countries, including Malawi. The Government are collaborating with the Government of Malawi, with their civil society organisations and with the United Nations Children's Fund to develop a comprehensive national plan in response to gender-based violence in schools.
The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, rightly drew our attention to the issue of women in detention. The news coming out of Yarl's Wood is disturbing, and it is important that the voices of these women are heard. But the picture is not as bleak as it is painted by some women. For example, it is wrong to say that women are starving. I will write to the noble Baroness and put a copy of my letter in the Library.
This country is now emerging from recession. The recovery is fragile and we must do all we can to ensure a sustainable return to growth. Part of that will be an increase in employment and a fall in unemployment. An increase in jobs for women will be an essential part of that. For women as well as men, returning to growth and regaining employment levels will be a tough path. The battle to secure the recovery will be hard fought, but it is essential for the economy and for equality.
In conclusion, this has been an excellent debate, and one that really counts. Promoting gender equality and women's empowerment matters because it affects all levels of society. It affects individuals because we want women to fulfil their potential and achieve their aspirations. It affects the economy because we want a strong economy that can draw on all available talent. It affects society as a whole because we want an equal
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Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, something has happened to my voice. First, I thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate today, particularly because all but the Front-Benchers were limited to five minutes. In those five minutes, we got so much varied information that made the debate worthwhile. I ask noble Lords to forgive me if I do not mention them by name: I am cutting down my remarks because my voice has gone funny. This upsets me terribly, because I have written down all the nice remarks I meant to make. However, I assure the House that I will contact all noble Lords about whom I have something to say-that is, all noble Lords who have spoken-in the next few days, so that they will know how much I appreciated what they said. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, and the Leader of the House for thanking all noble Lords and commenting on all the wonderful things that were said from all sides of the House. Not everybody was mentioned, although they all deserved it.
Today's debate has been excellent. It was not down to me: I tried to do as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Gould. I am not sure whether I managed it, but I did my best. What came from the Floor was terrific. There were things that I did not expect to hear: it was all first class. Even hearing about cows was very interesting. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Proscription of terrorist organisations is an important part of the Government's strategy for countering terrorism. The purpose of the order, if this House and the other place so approve, is to add to the list of 45 international terrorist organisations that are already proscribed. We propose to do so by adding the group Al-Shabaab to the organisations listed under Schedule 2 to the 2000 Act. This is the eighth proscription order made under the Terrorism Act 2000.
Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides a power for the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation if he believes that it is concerned in terrorism. The Act specifies that an organisation is concerned in terrorism if it: commits or participates in acts of terrorism;
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