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Supporting Women in Developing Countries

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Independent, Romsey and Southampton North

What steps his Department is taking to support women in developing countries in (a) business and (b) further education after they have finished school.

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Secretary of State for International Development

DFID’s support for the SheTrades Commonwealth programme has trained over 2,700 women-owned businesses. We recently announced £30 million for the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa programme, which will help to unlock $3 billion of additional lending to women entrepreneurs.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Independent, Romsey and Southampton North

Some of the most inspirational, determined business leaders and entrepreneurs in Romsey and Southampton North are women. Do the Secretary of State and his Front-Bench team agree that female empowerment cannot begin and end in school, but has to continue into the workplace? Will he commit to giving more support to make sure that we have women business leaders in the developing world?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Secretary of State for International Development

My right hon. Friend is right. Economic empowerment for women is vital, and I made mention of the affirmative finance programme, which is tackling issues such as access to finance, access to mentoring support and overcoming laws that discriminate against women. It is worth pointing out that women typically reinvest up to 90% of their income into education, health and nutrition, compared to 40% for men, so investing in female-led businesses can transform societies.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Specialist organisations such as Khwendo Kor that deliver services to women are being restricted by other NGOs in consortia by exclusivity clauses, so that they can only bid with one organisation for funding, so expertise is being lost. Can the Secretary of State ensure that exclusivity clauses are removed?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Secretary of State for International Development

I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss that case and to try to understand a bit better what we could do.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

Menstruation stops many women participating in the business world and mostly affects the poorest, no more so than in the Rohingya camps, as Oxfam has told me. WUKA produces underwear that deals with the problem, is reusable and environmentally sustainable. Will his Department meet WUKA, Ruby Raut and others in St Albans who have developed the product to help women beat the problems of menstruation?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Secretary of State for International Development

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all the work that she has done in Bangladesh in tackling humanitarian issues, and she raises an important point. We have a flagship programme called the Girls’ Education Challenge, which does fund support for 23 menstrual hygiene projects across 13 countries, but of course I would be happy to meet with her and the company in her constituency.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

Ukraine is a country that is perhaps redeveloping rather than developing. Can the Secretary of State tell us what projects he is supporting for women in business and education in the east of Ukraine, where there is a war with Russia, particularly through the International Committee of the Red Cross?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Secretary of State for International Development

I am not aware of the details of programmes that the hon. Gentleman talks about, but I would be happy to meet him to discuss that case.