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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, not for the first time I am most grateful to the noble Viscount for the practical questions that he has raised. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, will forgive me for observing that the thrust of his points relates to an earlier discussion. Therefore, perhaps I may concentrate on the noble Viscount's amendment.

As this is a special measure, it would only be capable of being introduced in accordance with Clause 18; in other words, it cannot come into force so that it is available to the court until the court has been notified by the Secretary of State that it is in fact available. We can implement by area, by measure or even by type of witness. Indeed, it may be a combination of those factors. As I said, the Secretary of State has to notify the court that it can make relevant arrangement measures available by virtue of Clause 18.

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I shall deal now with one or two of the details raised by the noble Viscount. We have the steering group which is advising on how most of Part II should be implemented. It is looking at various options for staged implementation, bearing in mind many of the points--probably all of them--made by the noble Viscount. For example, how can you bring the measures into force? The noble Viscount rightly said that one needs training in the use of the equipment and one needs guidance about that use. That may mean rules of court. Moreover--and here I revert to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas and by the noble Viscount--accommodation and equipment will need to be found.

The noble Viscount is quite right to say that some of the measures will need more equipment, which will need to be purchased. Video recorded evidence is already produced and shown in court in respect of child witnesses. I agree with the noble Viscount's theme: we will need to have an audit of existing equipment before we can determine what additional facilities are needed to implement this legislation in a phased and staged way. The group is examining these problems. I am not attempting to minimise them because I well recognise the force of what the noble Viscount said. If, as he indicated, the purpose of his amendment was to flag up such concerns, I can only repeat my gratitude to him. If I have any further particulars as the weeks develop, I shall write to the noble Viscount, sending copies to interested noble Lords in the usual way. I shall also place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

Viscount Colville of Culross: My Lords, I am very glad to have received that rather full reply. Plainly the Minister and his advisors have absorbed the necessity to have the equipment and the training. The only comment that I would add is this. If it turns out, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, indicated, that this will be able to be done only in the court itself--because it will not be worth while installing facilities for the comparatively limited number of occasions that it will be used anywhere else--that will have to be fitted into the timetable of the court centre.

The video room or the video court in a court centre is a very valued commodity. It is used on a strict basis for the cases that need it. It is very much used and very much desired. The listing office in any court which has one will find that it is bombarded with cases that will have to be fixed in order to use that particular equipment. If, in addition to the existing use that is made of it, we are to have the extra demands envisaged by Clause 18, I believe that the Court Services Agency, as well as everyone else, should be fully engaged in the consultations; otherwise, we shall only find that the whole matter comes to grief because of the lack of ability to use the court facilities. I shall leave the matter with the Minister. Indeed, he has entirely taken my point.

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Nevertheless, there is a great deal of work to be done before this particular special measure can be implemented. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 123:

Page 42, line 32, at end insert--
("(2A) The following provisions come into force on the day on which this Act is passed--
(a) section 6(4);
(b) the provisions of Chapters I to IV of Part II for the purpose only of the exercise of any power to make rules of court;
(c) section 39(1);
(d) sections 55(5) and 56(2) for the purpose only of the exercise of any power to make an order;
(e) section 56(1) and (3), sections 57 to 61 and this section.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 124:

Line 4, after ("proceedings;") insert ("to make pre-consolidation amendments relating to youth justice;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.


Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, as consideration on this Bill has now been concluded, the Unstarred Question is no longer restricted to the one hour which would have been allowed during the dinner break. Therefore, the one-and-a-half-hour limit now applies. That does not affect the time allowed for my noble friends Lady Uddin and Lady Amos, but it increases the time available for all other speakers from three to five minutes.

World Poverty Elimination: Role of Women

7.54 p.m.

Baroness Uddin rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken to strengthen the role of women in the elimination of world poverty.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I must confess to a feeling of extreme pleasure at being able to open this debate to mark the occasion of International Women's Day, particularly on the eve of the new millennium. I look forward to hearing the eminent speakers on the list, especially the maiden contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Patel.

The UN estimates that up to 70 per cent. of the world's poor are female. Gender discrimination is the world's most widespread form of social exclusion. Women's inequality is an obstacle to development and a major cause of social injustice. Women are frequently the victims of violence, and they are very poorly

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represented in positions of political power. This is the backdrop to our lot in the world, be it in Britain or Bangladesh.

To accord proper justice to the work of worldwide development is a task well beyond one woman. Therefore, with your Lordships' indulgence, I wish very much to focus on one small aspect of what is a big agenda and look specifically at some of the development programmes and their impact on Bangladesh.

The vanguard of the Bengali nationalist movement was indebted to and dependent upon the ongoing support of the international community for bringing it to victory. NGOs emerged during this period to provide relief and rehabilitation as well as during the floods, famine and cyclone devastation following the violent struggle for independence. Over the next two decades they gained influence for organising the rural disenfranchised and the poor and for disseminating both social and economic resources to a dispersed population.

The early programmes were initiated to reduce fertility, provide literacy and skills training for women, and basically to work alongside the government in meeting those goals. Changes in policies of aid assistance have triggered a new demand, based on export-led growth thus leading to the creation of an industrial working class. In that context, NGO training schemes have provided important institutional resources in building a class of industrial women workers by providing training in sewing and handicraft production. The other effect has been to provide a venue for women and/or their daughters to enter the garment industry in the emerging export-producing enclaves of the capital and the port area. Women now represent more than 90 per cent. of the workforce of the garment industry in Bangladesh.

Since the early 1980s, much of the development assistance has concentrated on denationalisation and the development of the private sector in the shift away from rural co-operatives and village development programmes to a new pattern of provision, assisting individualised credit and promoting self-reliance. Hence the birth of the central theme and the success of the internationally renowned Grameen Bank project. Micro-enterprises have provided a point of entry from which a number of visible changes have occurred without appearing to threaten the existing roles of women and family structures.

Those projects afford and create innovative opportunities to interact within a group and to initiate educational programmes as well as pursue other dimensions of social change. In particular, women--and this will be no surprise to your Lordships--have proven to be efficient managers of micro-credit programmes. Today in Bangladesh women are the recipients of over 75 per cent. of the credit by NGOs and they have maintained an 85 per cent. loan repayment rate.

The development of women's programmes for literacy, skills training and provision for credit as well as population planning in Bangladesh is now well established. Currently, the activities of NGOs are acknowledged to have played a crucial role in providing an environment for the construction of the current

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female labour force. Today women are an increasing force among the entrepreneurs in small and cottage industries and in the export of garment manufacturing as well as taking part in public rallies.

Another example of what is happening is the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee--shortly put, BRAC--which is probably the world's largest indigenous non-governmental development organisation. It has acquired worldwide status among health professionals for its path-breaking nationwide programme to teach oral rehydration for the treatment of diarrhoea to 13 million women in the 68,000 villages of Bangladesh. That is a staggering figure. Its experimentation in primary healthcare is also well known. The measure of its success was apparent during the recent flood disaster when it reduced the numbers of those struck by diarrhoea and other fatal diseases. BRAC has also acquired an international reputation for its innovative and successful approach to primary education for the poorest rural children, in particular girls.

Bangladesh is emerging as an increasingly confident country in the south-east Asia region with steady economic growth and continuous reform of its social infrastructure. Equally impressive is its response to political representation, or lack of it. In this context the alarm at the absence of women in political and public life in the early 1970s received a prompt political response in reserving--this was one of the first world quota systems for women in public life--10 per cent. of parliamentary seats for women. This practice is now being improved to ensure all political parties are representative of women right across their structures. The Government also have a policy to support free education for all girls up to secondary level.

Of course all international intervention has its critics and neither the Department for International Development nor local NGOs are free from them. When I last visited Bangladesh and met representatives of various small women's organisations I was told in no uncertain terms that indigenous women's groups are increasingly questioning the accountability and organisational legitimacy of externally funded NGOs. This is a positive development and demonstrates the confidence which now exists in the country. Many international NGOs can rightly be proud of the current state of women's development.

In this context the experience of Oxfam's model of working needs to be highlighted. Oxfam in Bangladesh has developed a new way to practise what it preaches with regard to gender and provides support to partners to integrate gender issues into their management structures as well as their programmes. It has helped to set up and resource a forum for women in management positions in partner organisations in a way that breaks new ground.

It is not just an international duty but a moral obligation on every organisation and NGO to ensure that, whether it is a question of empowerment or social engineering, it is done with the consent and involvement of women at grassroots level. Many initiatives focus on educating women, often from a western perception of empowerment. Creating awareness through education is

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not sufficient to achieve social empowerment. Women's economic vulnerability is at the centre of their powerlessness, and improvement in their economic status has a positive impact on other dimensions of empowerment. The current British annual allocation of assistance to Bangladesh is approximately £40 million a year. If we are to examine what is happening to that money and what is happening to our sisterhood globally, we can cite Bangladesh as a good example of what can be achieved and what we can be proud of.

The emancipation of women is an integral part of social progress; it is not just a women's issue. I pay homage to those whose relentless effort and vigour have ensured our freedom in this century and our standing in society today. DfID's commitment to women's equality is clear in the White Paper. It is a commitment that I hope we can all support and endorse. It states that the development approach is based on principles of human rights and social justice and that poverty cannot be estimated until men and women have equal access to the resources and services necessary to achieve their individual potential and fulfil their obligations to household, community, society, and more importantly--this is my point--to themselves.

I know that we have a long way to go. I conclude by asking my noble friend the Minister to respond to the following questions. Can my noble friend tell the House what specific measures DfID is taking to encourage women to participate in political and public life? Will my noble friend assure the House that the department is monitoring the distribution of aid to Bangladesh to ensure that it is distributed widely and is not concentrated solely on the area surrounding the capital? Will my noble friend perhaps write to me on the proportion of aid programmes that are based in or distributed to the Sylhet region?

8.4 p.m.

Lord Patel: My Lords, I am privileged to have this opportunity to speak in your Lordships' House for the first time, and for this I beg your indulgence. First of all, I thank all your Lordships, members of the administration and the doorkeepers for the warm welcome I have had.

As has already been mentioned, today is International Women's Day, and taking part in a panel discussion on the theme of equality for women, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Kofi Annan, and the First Lady of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton, called for renewed efforts to promote women's rights as human rights. Among the issues they identified was equal opportunity to healthcare for all women.

For over 30 years now, I, as an obstetrician, have tried to improve women's health, not only in our country but internationally through my association with the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Over 500,000 women--one every minute--die from complications of pregnancy every year; tens of millions more suffer long-term severe disability and hundreds of millions more suffer some form of disability. This appalling mortality and morbidity--mostly in

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developing countries--from easily treatable causes, affects family, society and nation, and is a major cause of poverty. Complications of pregnancy account for 18 per cent. of the disease burden in women of childbearing age.

Ms. Ann Tinker of the Human Development Network of the World Bank clearly stated why policy makers and others should invest in safe motherhood programmes. They are cost-effective and not only help women, their families and society, but will help to alleviate poverty. WHO and the World Bank estimate that the cost of a standard package of maternal and child health service will be three dollars per person per year.

Successive British governments, and DfID now, have supported safe motherhood programmes--I have been involved in some of these--in many parts of the world and these have been examples for other countries to follow. These programmes not only help to reduce maternal mortality but improve family health and reduce poverty. Reproduction and sexual health is a right for both men and women, but there is a need to recognise the reproductive rights of women as human rights.

The education of girls up to a certain standard is one of the ways to empower women to exercise these rights. There is a significant relation between the level of education of girls and the causes of poverty, population growth, family size and maternal and infant mortality. Helping to support and develop educational programmes in developing countries directed towards girls would reduce poverty levels and ensure a greater involvement of women in decision making subsequently.

My instructions today were to stick to time and be non-controversial. I hope that today I have been both, but I do not always promise to be the latter in the future.

8.10 p.m.

Baroness Goudie: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his speech. I look forward to hearing from him and to him joining with us in debates in the House. I know about his work in Dundee and in the World Health Organisation. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate him.

I should like to thank my noble friend Baroness Uddin for instigating this very important debate on the anniversary of International Women's Day. In 1857 the women who worked in appalling conditions in the garment and textile factories marched through New York to demand better wages and improved working conditions, a march which ended in violent struggles with the police and was to set alight the women's rights campaign in the United States. In Europe this day was celebrated for the first time in 1911, with rallies in many countries attracting more than a million people.

International Women's Day was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in the year of the General Strike and was officially recognised by the United Nations in 1977. The United Nations decade for women helped focus attention on women's issues internationally. Countries in Africa and Latin America then joined in and the number of women involved worldwide increased.

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Women make up more of the world's poor than men. Often their work is unrecognised and unpaid. They rarely have control over assets such as land. This means that they cannot become economically independent and it makes them particularly vulnerable in widowhood and old age. Poor women find it particularly difficult to obtain credit, despite having a better track record than men in repaying loans. Credit programmes specifically for women have recently been developed in Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Swaziland.

The Department for International Development is supporting a group of non-governmental organisations which is working with the Vietnamese government to reduce poverty in the Ha Tinh province. The programme includes a scheme for increasing women's access to credit. In East Africa, DfID is supporting an organisation, the Kenyan Women's Finance Trust, providing credit and other services to poor women. It is making financial services available to thousands of poor rural women in western Kenya. DfID is providing technical assistance to a Tanzanian self-help company, which enables poor women to lease essential equipment to start up small enterprises such as dressmaking, tailoring, office services and retail food services.

I am proud of this Government's commitment to women and in particular in strengthening the role of women in eliminating world poverty. Yesterday, Sunday 7th March, marked 300 days until the new millennium. The Chancellor has announced the millennium target: the debt relief of £50 billion to the world's poorest countries by the end of 2000. I hope and believe that the Government will be able to lead the nations of the world to eliminate this debt. This has increased the overseas aid budget by the largest amount ever, and for the first time in two decades, after years of that budget declining as a percentage of our national income.

I look forward to the day when more women across the world will be taking the lead in government and in civil societies. International Women's Day plays an important role in reminding us of the issues affecting the women of the world. But this is but one day out of 365. The issues we discuss today must not be forgotten tomorrow, because the women in poverty today will still be in poverty tomorrow. We must ensure that our Government continue to work to improve the position of women to fight against poverty and to persuade other nations to redouble their efforts in this fight.

8.14 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, in the short time available I should like to stress three points. Before I do so, I should like to say how good it was to hear the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and to say how much we look forward to drawing on his experience in future debates in this House.

The first point I should like to emphasise is the extent of the problem that is faced. Despite the Government's public commitment to gender equality and to recognition of women's and girl's rights, in developing countries female wages are still only 75 per cent. of male wages, 60 per cent. more women than men are still illiterate, and female primary school enrolment is still

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13 per cent. lower than male enrolment. Although its forms differ between rural and urban contexts, and according to the society in question, women's disadvantage remains a constant throughout the developing world. There is still a huge problem to be tackled.

Secondly, I should like to emphasise the valuable role that is being played by churches and NGOs in strengthening the role of women. At the Lambeth Conference last year about 700 bishops' wives were present, the majority from the developing world. They were not just there for the ride. In many developing countries the wives of bishops have a key role as leaders in their own right. So it was appropriate that at Lambeth they had their own carefully organised programme. Part of their leadership role is exercised through their presidency of their diocesan Mothers Union. In this country, mention of the Mothers Union can sometimes raise a laugh. But a country like Nigeria now has more practising Anglicans than the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States put together. There the Mothers Union plays a crucial role in empowering and educating women in literally thousands of local communities.

Then there is the role of all NGOs, characterised by their long-term commitment to strengthening the role of women and their comparative advantage in relation to governments in reaching the poorest and weakest people in society and, in particular, hearing the women's voices among them. It was particularly good to hear the stress which the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin--to whom we are all very grateful for initiating the debate, put upon the particular role of NGOs in Bangladesh. Perhaps I may emphasise that most NGOs these days--I think of Christian Aid, of which I am privileged to be a board member--work through local partners. Therefore they can be sensitive to all the nuances of properly empowering local groups according to their lights rather than western imposed lights. I very much hope that the Government will bear in mind the particularly valuable role that NGOs can play, and are already playing, in this area.

Finally, I should like to give an example of what is possible. As part of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, I paid a visit to the south of Brazil. There the church is actively helping the rural landless poor and is trying to create sustainable life in the countryside for some of the 4 million landless people so that they do not merely migrate to the rubbish dumps on the edge of the big cities. We visited a group of 30 families who had erected some simple shacks on open land. As we arrived, they came over to visit us in procession, singing a simple religious song and giving us each a posy made from flowers from the heath. The dirt floors of their simple shacks were brushed, their few pots were polished and their clothes were washed with home made soap. One hut had recently burned down with the loss of the family's few possessions. The other families had rallied round and shared the little that they had. Although this group of families had now acquired some land, some seed and a few cows, they still struggled in solidarity with the other millions of rural landless poor in the movement, a good few of whom have been shot

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dead in the struggle simply to live. What came across above all was the dignity of this group of families, their moral and spiritual strength and their joy. Their leader, inspirer and spokesperson was a women in her early thirties. I shall never forget her.

That pattern can increasingly become a reality in the developing world if we are truly serious about righting the present imbalances.

8.20 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Uddin for initiating this important debate. I wish also to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his superb maiden speech. I was particularly interested in his comments on safe motherhood programmes, in which I have some personal interest.

I received briefing for this debate from a number of NGOs, in particular from One World Action. They all make broadly similar points to the Government and to DfID. Perhaps I may repeat their three main points.

The first relates to mainstreaming gender analysis throughout all development co-operation, from project or programme conception through to monitoring and evaluation and throughout other government ministries. The second point made by all the NGOs related to fostering women's participation in local decision- making and in national and international politics. The key to that lies in improved education and training opportunities. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. The third point made by all NGOs was that DfID should concentrate its efforts on supporting independent women's organisations and institution building.

A huge amount of work has been done on this issue by DfID, and also by international organisations such as the OECD, the UN, the EU and others. A stream of policy statements have come from those institutions. So why, in the light of all this work, is poverty increasing, and in particular women's poverty?

When I sat down to write my remarks for this debate, I wanted to find a stirring example of success. All four speakers have given good examples of success in the types of projects that DfID and other organisations have undertaken. But I would argue that part of the answer as to why poverty, and women's poverty in particular, is increasing lies with us here in this Chamber tonight. There are no speakers from the party opposite; and there are no Ministers on the Front Bench from the donor ministries--finance, trade, agriculture and defence. I doubt very much whether those ministries consider gender issues in their approach to their work.

I believe I am right in saying that all noble Lords who are contributing to this debate have NGO backgrounds and experience and care passionately about this subject. I am not criticising the groups I have mentioned; I am criticising us for not properly getting our message across and for "preaching to the choir". The message needs to go wider.

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When I heard that I had an extra two minutes in which to speak, I immediately rushed back to my computer and called up Alta Vista, the search engine, and typed in, "International Women's Day", in an attempt to find two minutes' worth of material. I found 10,011,743 web pages, many of them concerned with development issues. So while we are preaching to the choir, there is a very large choir out there of those who are interested in development issues.

In conclusion, my noble friend's Qustion is addressed to Her Majesty's Government, not only to DfID. I should be very pleased if my noble friend would give examples of the promotion of women's development issues outside DfID but within Her Majesty's Government.

8.24 p.m.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I wish to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his maiden speech. The noble Lord brings with him wide experience in the field of health. I hope that this House will benefit from his contributions on future occasions. Unlike most noble Lords, he shares with me my country of origin, and it therefore gives me added pleasure to congratulate him.

Perhaps I may also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, on extending the time limit for speakers in this debate from three to five minutes. At least it gives me a breathing space between sentences.

I welcome this debate. I am a trustee of the Save the Children Fund. That charity has already submitted written evidence to the International Development Committee of the House of Commons inquiry into Women and Development. I am glad that we have the opportunity to discuss the subject in this House.

Poverty is not just about the lack of fulfilment of basic needs. It is also about the reasons for that lack, which vary widely and may also require cultural interpretation affecting different communities throughout the world. If poverty were about economics, then money would solve most of the problems. But it is not. Poverty is also about power and control. It is about ownership of property and legal rights. It is about political, social and cultural priorities. It is easy to talk about education and health. But if we strip the subject to its bare essentials, we need to address power relationships. The gap is still growing between the rich and the poor and between men and women--but, more importantly, between men and women in third world countries.

In essence, what is needed is training to support effective policies and programmes which take into account women's needs and which enable people, once they are trained, to put their knowledge into practice. Programmes must be based on gender awareness and gender analysis. We need to support civil society networks in raising public and state commitment to gender equality. We need to examine the non-economic aspects of poverty, which often pertain to women. We must channel resources to those who are working to improve women's participation in the political decision-making structures.

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We should undertake a gender assessment of British trade policy as a matter of priority. We must also seek to eliminate the inconsistencies that leave Britain supplying military technology to overseas governments who use it against their own people or against those in areas where Britain at the same time seeks to support the elimination of poverty.

The non-economic aspects of poverty include insecurity and social isolation--whose special meaning includes domestic violence and sexual abuse, which disproportionately affect women. Added to that is displacement from conflict zones. These are the sorry tales that we hear and read about on a daily basis.

It is time that women and children were at the top of the agenda in the battle for the elimination of poverty. Women and children must be at the forefront, because they are at the centre of family life in every civilisation.

8.28 p.m.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on initiating this debate at such an opportune time and on such an important day. Perhaps I may also say how much I enjoyed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Patel. Along with other noble Lords, I welcome him as a Member of this House. As a relatively "new girl" myself, I assure the noble Lord that he will find only friendship here.

I wish to address two issues regarding women at an international level. I declare an interest. I am a lifelong and passionate co-operator--and, the last time I looked, I was a woman. I wish to take this opportunity of combining those two aspects of my life.

The success of international co-operation is a testament to the strength of the philosophy of co-operative principles. Millions of people throughout the world work and belong to co-operative enterprises. Millions among those are women. In 1999, the United Nations, on the occasion of the International Day of Co-operation, has recognised the achievements of co-operation in stressing that women have found adequate means to improve their economic situation through co-operatives. It pointed out that co-operatives have not only allowed many women to overcome poverty--often by offering favourable conditions of employment and access to credit--but have also made a considerable contribution to the achievement of equality with men by improving education and training opportunities. One of the most important factors concerning women's participation in co-operatives is the presence of women in the decision-making process at every level of the enterprise. The United Nations acknowledges other contributions of co-operatives too, such as promoting women's self-reliance, helping to eliminate violence and integrating gender equality dimensions into policy-making.

As a lifelong co-operator, I grew up understanding that an important and integral aspect of the co-operative movement was international solidarity and support. Solidarity and mutual support are also at the core of feminism. That is my second point. I make no apology for using the term on this day.

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At a micro level, I gained enormous strength from the support of the noble women friends whom I have met in this House. I tell my male colleagues here that in the Earl Marshal's room, where we meet, we get enormous support from each other on a daily basis. I have found that a huge help in my time here. For women over the years--suffragettes, women in Ireland, women in need of protection, women during the struggles that they have had--women supporting women have helped to make the changes and progress that we have achieved. For example, a suffragette visited women in Turkey when the suffragettes received the vote in the early part of the century and there is a plaque to commemorate it.

I have communicated by e-mail with sisters around the world: women oppressed by the Taliban, women in the Highlands of Scotland--they may not be oppressed, but they are there--women in poverty and pain. I take this opportunity to rejoice at the mutual support that women gain from each other around the world. I say that on this day in particular.

8.31 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Ladies and Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, and congratulate her on achieving the first gender balance I have seen in this House. I hope she proves to be a pioneer. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Patel, who hales from Dunkeld, where I went to school a long time ago.

The poorest people, it is said, are women and to escape from poverty women and girls need more education. I used to believe that that was the first priority, but in my experience it is not as simple as increasing the enrolment of girls in school or improved access to health. Women living in deprived economic conditions already know exactly what they want from life. They would escape from poverty tomorrow if they had the ability to overcome the constraints of gender, religion and culture which hold them back.

I am always surprised--perhaps because of the propaganda of aid, which suggests the answers come from outside--how much wisdom exists in every society, at every level of development. In eastern Uganda last October I attended a women's group who were mourning their losses from AIDS in their villages. I asked them, if this was the cause of so much sadness, what made them happy? The clear answer was their unity, the unity of women, the participation of the whole community in their development; their ability to improve hygiene; the reduction of social stigmas about HIV; the training of health workers.

How would they afford to set about these things?--mainly through agricultural activities, the sale of vegetables, herding cattle if they could afford to; making mats, other craft objects and baskets, if they could find a market. Later I joined a self-help group in which men dominated. One man said that they needed to get more children into school, but another man, a health worker, said:"It's no good having children if you can't look after them". He was expressing a universal sentiment. The group leader lamented: "In the past it was easier to support children, things weren't so expensive". He said that meeting needs today would mean change.

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The reality is that the poorest people have fewer choices and the women even less. I have seen some excellent programmes which sustain women's education and development. They break down some of the barriers of dependence. They are programmes which reflect the Beijing agenda of empowerment, enlarging the traditional caring role into a political and economic responsibility.

In Afghanistan, through a trust, I have supported a project which enables girls to receive appropriate informal primary education in practical skills--until the Taliban closed it down. In Orissa I visited a CARE programme which skilfully combines health and microfinance, giving women independence through small business credit schemes. In Bangladesh, as we have heard, the repayment rate is a success and a challenge to other countries.

But the question today is whether governments like ours can support such programmes in the climate of enhanced structural adjustment in which the demands of the IMF and the World Bank inevitably promote the interests of a traditional hierarchy. To put it in simple terms, there is evidence that while women and children do the bulk of agricultural work, when it comes to cash crops, when they go to market, the men seem to have the lion's share of the management and profits.

I know that that is a simplification and I do not want to imply that governments are more insensitive than NGOs. There are some excellent examples of good practice in the UK bilateral aid programme. We have heard the example of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee and there are many other examples of agencies with a proven track record. Governments have recognised that microlending works and that loans to the very poor and to women in particular are a highly efficient means of eliminating poverty and supporting women's rights to greater economic influence.

I congratulate the Government on their renewed emphasis on gender equality and their programmes for women, as declared in their new publication Breaking the Barriers. I wish to ask one question of the Minister. I note that on page 19 it says that the Lome Convention now pays more attention to gender, apparently with UK encouragement. I would like to ask her whether she accepts that international trade and economic liberalisation can discriminate against and marginalise women. Echoing what has already been said, can the Minister confirm that the Department of Trade and Industry shares DfID's understanding of gender equality and that, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said, the DTI too will promote gender awareness and equality in its own programmes?

8.36 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, this Question today is appropriate on International Women's Day. It is also apposite. In February a series of conferences began in The Hague, leading to a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in June, which will review

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and appraise the implementation of the programme of action agreed at the International Conference on Population Development in Cairo five years ago.

At that conference, 180 countries agreed recommendations for sustainable development strategies to eradicate poverty and to guarantee human rights. The programme of action put people at the centre of development and focused on action seeking to stabilise world population. In this, the position of women is pivotal: their education and their right to reproductive health are the two sides of the one coin, facilitating women's contribution to world economic and social development and the eradication of poverty.

The concept of population control to reduce the rate of world population growth, with all its human and environmental consequences, was replaced by the right to reproductive health services and facilities; in other words, the right to have access to reliable information and education on healthcare, on personal relations, sex and contraception. Consequent upon that is the ability, as well as the right, to choose the number and spacing of one's children.

As the noble Lord, Lord Patel, indicated in his excellent maiden speech, the extent to which that right is exercised is determined by the level of women's education. So, too, is the extent of family health and well-being and women's contribution to wealth creation.

What is the score five years after Cairo? My noble friend Lady Uddin made reference to successful programmes in Bangladesh. Others have also referred to such programmes. While globally progress has been made there are areas in which the position of women has deteriorated. In sub-Saharan Africa and parts of east Asia the proportion of girls in education has declined. In sub-Saharan Africa earlier efforts to get children into primary school have stalled. The total number of children out of school has increased and is projected to rise from 41 million in 1980 to 83 million by 2015. This is not altogether due to lack of activity. Indeed, in some areas there has been an increase in enrolment, with the number of girls in schools keeping pace with boys. However, because of the rise in population the proportion of girls in schools has declined.

This patchy and disappointing progress can be put down to many factors: world depression; more wars; the appalling growth in AIDS, which has put women at even greater risk; but, above all, the failure of governments to provide the necessary funding to carry forward the programme. One honourable exception to this is the United Kingdom. The UK Government are one of the few to increase their international development programme and put women at the centre of it. Therefore, this evening perhaps I may ask my noble friend the Minister whether there is anything that the Government can do to put pressure on other countries, particularly in the EU, to increase their aid in order to fulfil the expectations of Cairo.

8.42 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I begin by apologising most sincerely to the noble

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Baroness, Lady Uddin, for missing the first minute or so of her speech. I am afraid that I was watching the clock and not the monitor. I should know better by now.

I gained my experience of poverty, in what was then called the third world, when helping in a clinic in one of the barriadas in Lima 30 years ago. There we were trying in a very small way to counter dehydration and other medical problems about which noble Lords have spoken. Witnessing abject poverty in the coastal urban slums and the rural areas in the high Andes, I learnt about the dead weight of poverty and ignorance, and their disproportionate impact on the life of women. Interestingly, although it is extremely important to have in mind how to help people in their traditional communities, many of the world's poor do not live in such communities any more; they live in large cities and must be helped in very different circumstances.

My experience led to a long interest in development issues in general and the impact of poverty upon women in particular. I was convinced that to educate and assist women should be an essential part of any aid programme: first, for women's sake; and, secondly, for the sake of healthier and smaller families and a healthier economy. We should not forget that in our communities there are women who cannot speak English and cannot properly participate in the political and civil life of our country.

At that time and for some time after not everyone shared that approach. At a meeting of the Liberal Policy Committee (as it was then) some time in the early 1980s I was able only to insert a sentence into a development paper on the importance of educating women as a result of the trenchant support of the late and greatly missed Lady Seear. "Susan Thomas is absolutely right", clinched the argument in my favour.

Later, time spent in Cuba confirmed my views. Education and health have been priorities of the revolution almost since the assault on the Moncada Barracks. Whatever criticisms one may make of the Cuban regime--and there are many--it is clear that the provision of universal literacy and equal employment rights has greatly benefited women and enhanced their contribution to society. But things have now changed even in the centres of power in the world of development aid. A recent seminar/discussion arranged for parliamentarians by the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, and DfID civil servants demonstrated the social, economic and physical subservience still suffered by women and the importance of women's contribution to the health and economic wellbeing of their communities and countries. The data that they produced and the sound theoretical and factual basis were of great interest to all of us.

The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, told an interesting story about how in Bangladesh local women now had the confidence to challenge the NGOs themselves. That really is progress. But there are still difficulties in providing education and health to the poorest people in the world, particularly women. Fertility, genital mutilation, the education of women and the general role of women in society are all matters in dispute. I look forward to hearing what the Minister is able to tell us

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about the new approaches to the delivery of aid, or assisting NGOs to do so, to enable women in those areas where custom and religion assist poverty to escape from it.

8.46 p.m.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: My Lords, first, I commend my noble friend Lady Uddin for introducing this debate. Secondly, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his excellent maiden speech. He and I have more in common than simply being participants in this debate. He is a distinguished physician in my home city of Dundee and practises at the hospital where my sister works, though she is not a doctor. Thirdly, perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, will comment on the wide open spaces behind her and her colleague and the fact that not a single Conservative Back-Bencher has put down his or her name to contribute to the debate or found the time to attend to listen to it. I believe that that is shameful. I hope that we shall hear some explanation for it at the appropriate time.

    "The last International Women's Day of this century will not be cause for celebration for the hundreds of millions of women who make up 70 per cent. of the world's poor and who are caught in a vicious circle of discrimination, lack of education, violence and poverty, which they pass on to their children".
These are not my words but the words of Bernard Coppens, director of the European Office of the United Nations Development Programme. I believe that that comment was made with some effect. The contrast between the developed and the developing worlds, north and south, rich and poor--however it is phrased--could not be more pronounced than in women's reproductive rights. To compare the country at the top of the league, Japan, with the country at the bottom, Sierra Leone, I offer three statistics that I find shocking and horrifying. In Japan the life expectancy for women is 82 years; in Sierra Leone it is 37 years. In Japan each woman on average has one child; in Sierra Leone the average is seven children. In Japan five out of 1,000 children are stillborn or die in the first week of life; in Sierra Leone the figure is 80 out of 1,000.

UNICEF reports that complications of pregnancy and delivery are the leading cause of death among reproductive-age women in developing countries. As the noble Lord, Lord Patel, eloquently illustrated, the appalling extent to which women die in pregnancy and childbirth is now reaching record levels. Most of these deaths could be prevented with better reproductive healthcare, and they have a cumulative multiplier effect which is in itself frightening.

They leave behind them 1 million motherless children who are themselves up to 10 times more likely to die in early childhood. Families lose the mother's crucial role in childbearing, household management and care for children and other family members. That is crucial because these roles are almost exclusively women's roles in the developing world. If they are not there, those left behind suffer and go on suffering.

Marie Stopes International, a widely respected organisation, has identified four interventions which it says are needed to improve radically reproductive healthcare for women in developing countries. These

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are, first, improved access to basic health, family planning services and adequate nutrition; secondly, attendance at birth by either a skilled midwife or doctor; thirdly, the provision of essential obstetric care for complications and emergencies; and, fourthly, the provision of postnatal and basic neonatal care.

Crucial to the achievement of women's empowerment and equality for girls so that they can realise their full potential is not only access to reproductive health services but also general as well as health education. Perversely, these are precisely the factors which are least available in the poorest countries. They are often countries which still have underdeveloped democracies, little representation of women in senior positions and a prevalence of socio-cultural attitudes which prevent the empowerment of women.

I know that the Government are giving priority to funding formal and informal education programmes for girls and women in the most needy countries. I would ask that they continue to support movements to remove legal, social and cultural barriers: those which prevent women in the poorest countries from fully participating in society and, crucially, in policy-making.

The next International Women's Day will be the first day of the new millennium. I hope that we can report that some of the figures which I and others have quoted tonight will at least begin to improve so that women's health and women's empowerment will be among the first signs of the new millennium and we will be making progress.

8.51 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, for initiating this debate. It takes a great deal of skill to manage to coincide a debate of this importance on a day which happens to be International Women's Day. This shows her success in manipulating our parliamentary system. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his maiden speech. I would have to admit that if I had only been given three minutes for my maiden speech it would have been a disaster. It shows how skilful he has been in making a speech of such importance in such a short period of time.

I should like to go on and commend the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, because I feel that she has slightly undermined the tenor of my speech by the unfortunate ability to pre-empt my usual 20 questions by putting forward an awareness briefing for MPs on gender development and poverty a couple of weeks ago. If the quality of my speech is slightly low it is because I went through the whole of it suffering from concussion. I have to admit that it was one of those briefings which are incredibly impressive because we on the Opposition Benches like to think that we are the only ones who ask these questions. It is rather annoying to find that DfID has not only asked the questions we wanted to have answered but that it has also gone a great deal further in questioning the whole precept of gender and sex, putting forward the supposition that gender is

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not a static position and that the role of women is changing in different societies in different ways at a constant rate--not just backwards but also forwards.

The developed world is often guilty of arrogance in thinking that it has actually succeeded. Many statistics on employment and pay show that equality is not something which has reached the developed world. However, this Chamber, as shown by the debate, is one of the very few places where we almost have equality.

Examples from the developing world and emerging democracies show that we have a number of lessons to learn. Many are extremely positive. The central message is that an economy depends on the position of women in that society. Noble Lords have commented on the role of education. It seems strange that it should have taken such a long time for people to understand that the only way to combat destructive population growth is through women's literacy, and not by trying to combat it through men's sexual habits or other means.

The debate has shown the need for empowerment in all sections of society, but especially the empowerment of women by providing for them the means to conduct business and support themselves. I wish to refer to the issue of micro credit. It is important to realise that without the money to buy the tools and plant the seeds, the local economy is very damaged.

The role of women in developing economies is often under-rated, as revealed in the briefing we received. My own experience is of seeing women, mostly in Africa, in the field, usually with two or three babies. This is rarely stressed in any figures put forward by the World Bank. It is the women who till the fields and provide the food for the family as well as doing many other jobs.

There is also the extremely important area of politics. Without a change in the political make-up and composition of the gender of politics, most of the other areas will fail. I wish to mention one positive aspect which my noble friend Lady Williams brought to my attention following her recent visit to India. One-third of all seats in local councils, including committee chairs, must be held by women. That situation is soon to be taken forward to parliament. It is perhaps something we should think seriously about in our own political system.

I conclude with a question. Can the Minister say, within World Bank and IMF evaluations of economies, whether the farm role of women in producing food for the family on local plots of land is to be quantified for future evaluation of the role of women in the economy?

8.57 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, for initiating this debate, a timely and interesting one, on a topic of fundamental importance. I too should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his maiden speech, even though I know it is not customary to add further congratulations after the first person has done so. However, I believe that his speech was truly outstanding, as maidens go.

As the diverse contributions show, this topic is immense, as it is intertwined with all aspects of development--in itself a complex topic. It is also a

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delicate subject, as it touches the heart of human relations, as we heard in the most moving speech of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich.

Women in what was called in 1985 the third world have a potentially pivotal role in combating poverty, as was recognised then by the Nairobi Conference. Women perform 53 per cent. of all economic activity in developing countries. These women, as almost everywhere else, are also in charge of the household. As a result they have deeper roots in the community, greater stakes in the proper management of natural resources and they make a crucial contribution in bringing up the next generation. Often, however, they are hindered in building a better future for themselves and their families because they lack the confidence and the education. The role of women in eradicating poverty will be strengthened only as their level of education improves, a point which several speakers have stressed and with which I agree.

This may be a banal point, but what do we mean by "improving education"? Here the problems start. I recently re-read the section on education in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. I was struck by its high idealism; its relatively low emphasis on participation; and its lack of concern for any respect for cultural differences. Although there is a broad international consensus behind this platform, we as Conservatives would like to question how realistic this is; whether its implementation will not create a larger number of "educated derelicts", in the words of Calvin Coolidge; or whether it is correct to equate western secular values with universal values.

Although we recognise the importance of eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education, we question the Government's priority, as the vast majority of illiterate women are currently over the age of 17. We believe that non-formal education and training for older women should be given greater support. It has to fit with the pattern of their lives; their family commitments and the agricultural cycle. Although numeracy and literacy are important, women also need a much wider range of education.

In practice, we see a fine example in the work of Seva Mandir in Rajisthan; the local women are encouraged to articulate their needs and identify a leader. This local leader is then trained in many skills, from the management of natural resources to health education and the importance of contraception. She then shares her skills with other local women.

In that way women take the responsibility upon themselves, as was so rightly said by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for the improvement of their lives and play an important role in the elimination of world poverty.

9.2 p.m.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Uddin for initiating today's debate and for having the foresight to hold the debate on International Women's Day. I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his maiden speech. I look forward to his continued contributions to debates in this House. I am

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pleased that the short time available for today's debate did not prevent noble Lords from making a significant contribution.

Today is a day for the celebration of women's achievements but it is also an opportunity to pause to reflect on the status of women internationally. Gender equality is indispensable to the elimination of world poverty and is one of the most challenging issues in international development. Women already play the key role in the struggle against poverty, but they are fighting an uphill battle. Removing barriers to women's equality will release a massive, undervalued stock of human potential, with benefits for all.

This Government's commitment to women's equality is clearly spelled out in the White Paper on international development. Gender equality is at the heart of the Government's programme and underlines the direct link we see between gender inequality and poverty. It also explicitly recognises the link between the realisation of human rights and the elimination of poverty.

This is a development debate, but in the light of the comments made by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby I must briefly set out our other priorities in relation to gender. We have established a women's unit which is working across government. It has clear priorities and is developing a clear agenda for women, including looking at women's incomes over a lifetime. I assure my noble friend that the expertise which we have gained in the Department for International Development has been acknowledged and the department will make a presentation at the next meeting of the Whitehall-wide group of Ministers who are looking at women's issues on the subject of mainstreaming.

Given the short time available to me tonight, I intend to focus on three key areas: violence against women; education for women and girls; and women's role in the economy. Women's role in the elimination of world poverty needs to be addressed in the context of wider social and cultural norms which impact on women's day-to-day lives. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, touched on the wider social issues affecting women. Poverty is not just about lack of income; it is also about wider issues of disadvantage, powerlessness and social exclusion.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, talked about the abuse of women. One of the most shocking manifestations of women's inequality is violence in peacetime as well as war, in the home as well as in the wider community, regardless of women's economic or social positions. Violence against women is a major violation of their human rights, so we must make every effort to stamp out the world-wide attitudes which lead to the abuse and exploitation of women across the world. Practices such as female genital mutilation and other forms of physical disfigurement remain a serious threat to many women around the world. Infanticide and sex-selective abortions also violate female rights in early life, or even before birth.

The DfID is increasing its work in this area through its bilateral work and through international partnerships. The department is already working closely with UNIFEM and making a substantial contribution to the

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work it is doing through its Global Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence Against Women. The department currently funds more than 20 initiatives around the world targeted at ending violence against women. We are also developing a gender focus in our wider approach to conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance which is seeking to mitigate the costs to women as well as men of natural disasters and the human tragedy of conflict. More importantly, we are looking for longer term solutions which will help prevent these events occurring in the first place.

I now turn to education. Investing in education for girls is the single most effective means of reducing poverty. Almost two out of every three illiterate people are women. Even a few years of basic education empowers women; they are economically more productive, have smaller, healthier families and are more likely to ensure that their own children go to school. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford drew our attention to the problems that are still being faced in education. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, my noble friends Lord Patel and Lady Lockwood and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, also mentioned education.

I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that our policy approach is founded on international agreements which virtually all countries in the world have signed. We respect the right of people to their own culture but we believe that discrimination against women cannot be justified on any grounds. We are explicit about our values in that respect and hope to persuade others to join us.

Gender inequality in education is costly and undermines development. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that gender inequality in education has reduced economic growth by 0.7 per cent. every year for the last 30 years--opening up a gap where countries which deny girls a fair share of educational opportunities have gross national products roughly 25 per cent. lower than those where they get a better chance.

In DfID we have made education for girls a top priority. We are putting resources behind international efforts to eliminate gender inequalities in education. We are committed to specific global targets to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary enrolment by 2005, and to achieve universal primary education in all countries by 2015.

My noble friend Lady Goudie and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, talked about women's role in the economy. Sustainable human development means enabling people to have opportunities to secure their economic needs through access to assets, markets and economic institutions which are efficient and properly regulated so that the poor can work and prosper. In Africa, it is estimated that women do 80 per cent. of agricultural work--the main source of livelihood for poor people. DfID's support for research and action to help improve rural livelihoods and the sustainable use of natural resources is increasingly focusing on the different needs of women and men.

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If poor women want to go it alone, they find it almost impossible to obtain credit and other support to set up on their own account, in spite of having a better track record than men in repaying loans. In Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa fewer than one in 10 of the beneficiaries of credit programmes are women.

That means working specifically to support women's interests by funding credit programmes, a point raised by many noble Lords and by my noble friend Lady Uddin. We need to fund credit programmes which directly serve the needs of poor women and work with governments to change land and inheritance laws to protect women's livelihoods.

We have also been at the forefront of ground-breaking work to bring a gender perspective into economic analysis and policy making. This includes collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat in supporting work on a "women's budget" in South Africa which is already bringing benefits through changes in welfare spending and the availability of credit to women. Similar work is now being done in Tanzania, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean.

We are working closely with the governments of developing countries, the World Bank, and other development agencies, to develop new approaches to poverty analysis. These directly involve poor women and men in working out a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and what needs to be done about it. I should like to say to my noble friend Lady Lockwood that we shall continue to work with the European Union on the priorities of the development aid budget.

We recognise that poverty is a global and not just a local phenomenon. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, talked about the gender assessment of trade policy. We are funding research on the effects of world trade on women and helping to identify policy instruments to make globalisation work in the interests of the poor, particularly women because globalisation and world trade create both opportunities and threats for women. That is a government commitment and I assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that DfID is working in partnership with other government departments, including the DTI, on those matters.

We are also building partnerships with the private sector and the trade union movement world-wide to improve labour standards, including health and safety, and to promote ethical trading. Of course, there is our on-going work with NGOs in a range of areas; a number of noble Lords have drawn attention to their specific contribution.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, focused on health, as did other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Watson. A key target for the 21st century is to reduce maternal mortality rates by three-quarters. That is a huge challenge and DfID has developed a four-point plan for safer motherhood, including the provision of information and good quality services.

My noble friends Lady Uddin, Lord Ponsonby and Lady Thornton all mentioned political participation and the role of women in decision-making. Political participation is a human right, recognised in the

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights. DfID is involved in training for prospective women candidates in Kenya and in a women voter education project which has led to a higher turn-out among women and more women being elected in project districts.

A new project is under way in Pakistan to work through civil society to help women gain more access to political and economic decision-making. My noble friend Lady Uddin also mentioned Bangladesh and she asked me three questions. Our assistance to Bangladesh is country-wide and by no means confined to Dhaka. I shall write to her with details of how much of our assistance goes to Sylhat, although it may be difficult to give a precise breakdown because of the broad-based nature of our approach.

I would like to thank noble Lords for their support of the work of DfID. I shall write to noble Lords whose specific questions I have been unable to address. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that I am sorry that

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I pre-empted him but I look forward to his regaining his questioning style in future. I shall write on the specific points that he raised in relation to the World Bank.

We do not see women as victims. Equal rights for women will bring equal rights for all and bring about a major breakthrough in the struggle against poverty. Women's equality is in everyone's interests, just as the elimination of poverty is in the interests of the rich as well as the poor. Women who are powerful will lead the way out of poverty. We seek to play our part in a global coalition to help them sweep aside the barriers that stand in their way.

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