My Lords, the theme for International Women’s Day—“Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”—puts innovation by, and for, women and girls at the heart of efforts to achieve a gender balance. As the UN Women website says:
“Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind. From urban planning that focuses on community safety to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls, affordable and quality childcare centres, and technology shaped by women, innovation can take the race for gender equality to its finishing line by 2030”.
We heard a different figure from the Minister at the beginning of this debate, but I know that we can achieve the fifth sustainable development goal: gender equality.
It begins with making sure that women’s and girls’ needs and, more importantly, their experiences and voices, are integrated at the very inception of new technology and innovations. It means building smart solutions that go beyond acknowledging the gender gap to address the needs of men and women equally. Of course, ultimately, it means innovations that disrupt business as usual by paying attention to how and by whom technology is used and accessed, and ensuring that women and girls play a pivotal role in emerging industries.
Global youth organisations, such as World Merit, are proudly operating from the UK and driving this agenda forward with great results. I had the great pleasure of speaking to more than 200 young people worldwide and being in a room full of good vibes—together as one, as they said. There was no gender divide in that room; teamwork thrived.
I thought about how I could add my experience as Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales to this debate, even though my work does not reach outside those countries. I think this plays a part and we need to bring victims’ voices into this Chamber. As Melinda Gates said:
“A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult”.
As Victims’ Commissioner, I travel up and down the country, meeting victims and survivors of horrendous crimes of domestic abuse, sexual abuse and rape, sitting with them face to face and hearing them tell their stories, which come from the darkest places—places where they were so brutally trodden down by their abusive partners, who said that they loved them. I stand here today as the proud mother of three beautiful young daughters, who are all psychologically damaged because they witnessed every kick and punch of their father’s brutal murder. As Melinda Gates said, searching for that voice is remarkably difficult.
I stand here to say that, listening to how all the victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse and rape across our country survive, and hearing the passion in their voices, creating a life for the next generation is so important. We need to have that message in this country as well as globally. This is such an important debate. I am sad that we are at the end of the list; it is typical that women are at the end, but we have a voice. We should have a two-day debate on this, like the ones we have on Brexit at the moment. I believe in coming together as one, because we all have a part to play in making our words come to life, and because our needs and words and our fight for the next generation are so important.