UN Women

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 10th March 2011.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 2:26 pm, 10th March 2011

It is always a real pleasure to follow Mr MacShane, and that is particularly true following the vital points he made about human trafficking. It is a huge privilege to speak in this debate, on this historic day, on this key issue about equality and empowering women. On such an historic day, we need to look at what more has to be done to put women on a par with men in equality terms. Equally, we need to mark today as a celebration of great things that great women have achieved around the world.

I am fortunate and privileged to have worked, before entering Parliament, as a special adviser to such a great international stateswomen as Benazir Bhutto, the twice former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who led with conviction in empowering people and who paid the ultimate price in her fight for democracy and empowering women and citizens in her society. She became the first woman to be elected the Head of an Islamic State in 1988. As Prime Minister, she became a role model for women around the developing world in male-dominated societies. They saw that they too could be future leaders of their country. She had 86,000 primary and secondary schools built in her term because she saw education as a means of empowering citizens in her country, particularly women. Under her government, 100,000 female health workers fanned out across the country, bringing health care, nutrition and pre and post-natal care to millions of the poorest citizens. Under her Government, women were given the basic right to participate in international sports, women’s police departments were established to help women who suffered from domestic violence and women’s banks were established to give micro-loans to women to start small businesses.

Today, we pay tribute to women such as Benazir Bhutto who are great role models for women around the world, and Aung San Suu Kyi, another of the courageous women who fight for democracy. In Brazil, it is great to see another female leader, Dilma Rousseff, as president of her state. However, much more needs to be done to ensure that there are more women in the Parliaments of developing countries.

In Burma, women make up only 4% of the membership of its lower House. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, only 8% of MPs are women. The figure is the same for Ghana. In Kenya, the figure is 9%; it is 7% in Nigeria, 6% in Somalia and in Yemen it is 0.3%. That is completely unacceptable. On that basis, I welcome DFID’s commitment to link international aid to programmes that empower women.