International Women’s Day - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 7th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat 5:30 pm, 7th March 2019

I am grateful for that intervention. I do not think it destroys the point I was making, but I congratulate those women.

My noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece focused her comments—very rightly, I am sure—on BAME women, particularly Muslim women. She made the valid point that Muslim women are not all victims. There are some hugely educated, talented women who can thrive, make a superb contribution and enrich our society.

I particular loved the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who said we are not to talk about female bishops because they are all bishops. It does not make any difference; they are bishops who happen to be women. I had already written down “female bishops”, then I quickly scrubbed it out. He talked about it not all being about women doing what men do. We had a lot of people talking about women in STEM and doing men’s occupations, but he rightly said that it is also about men doing what women do. When we are all doing a similar kind of job, using the talents we undoubtedly have, we will get a much fairer society.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, talked about the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the situation in Ethiopia. She said there is still hope—particularly with the actions of the brave Prime Minister—and still problems to deal with, but that progress is being made, albeit slowly. That is always the way; progress always seems to be slow.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, talked about the 50:50 movement, #AskHerToStand, and the successes and setbacks in the Conservative Party. I pay tribute to the hard work of many Conservative women and the efforts they have made in their own party. There are champions in the other parties too, of course; other champions are available.

The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, referred to winning the right to work far harder than the men. She is not the only one who is knackered. I am also knackered after trying to accommodate all the wise words that we have heard during the debate. I am sure the Minister will wish to comment on the importance of gender equality impact assessments for all new legislation.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Seccombe and Lady Bull, talked about how lucky we are to be who we are and where we are at the time we are in, and referred to giving a hand-up to our sisters elsewhere in the world who are not so fortunate. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said we are lucky, yes, but we still face challenges at home and in the world. Like my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece, she said that we are not what we wear; that we do not need to be judged by whether we are wearing a scarf or by the way we are dressed. However, it is the way of the world, unfortunately.

My noble friend Lady Miller referred to the role of women in war and in peace and the fact that there is a direct ratio between women’s involvement and the degree of danger and fear, particularly of nuclear attack. She related inspirational stories about the Greenham Common women all working together.

The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, has a magic number—228—the number of women Peers. I have a magic number too—167. I was the 167th woman ever to be elected to the British Parliament, which really puts matters into context.

The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, referred to women who do not have settled status—a hugely important area—having no recourse to public funds and the help that all abused women should receive regardless of their status.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, gave an inspiring description of her brilliant mother—a Russian exile who faced great tragedy—and she also referred to how lucky we are.

My noble friend Lord Hussain, referred to the plight of Kashmiri women and described a harrowing picture of half-widows, their search for their missing men and mass rape. It is a terrible situation and I commend him for the work he does.

I also commend the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, and the work of the Loomba Foundation and the importance of the priority given to women all over the world.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson of Abinger, asked where the women are in the peace process. It is wrong to exclude 50% of us from the process; we are the peaceful 50%.

I realise that I have now had seven minutes. There have been many other wonderful contributions—people have sat here for a long time today—and I particularly enjoyed those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Crawley, Lady Redfern and Lady Rock, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, in talking about the economic impact of women. We can work together to create better chances for women. If men are allowed to write all the algorithms we will get what they planned for, and we do not need that.

I finish by again referring to the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on this year’s theme—“Balance for Better”—and government planning for great things, including on period poverty, on which I have campaigned for a while.

It occurred to me that we have a very special talent as women: we are very good at working together. Shame on us if we do not work together and make sure that we use our combined talent across parties, for no party and for all parties to achieve success for us and our male counterparts—I particularly loved the contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, which was well worth listening to—so let us get on with it. We can do this together.