On 8 September 2016, I announced to the House the launch of a new initiative, the Speaker’s Democracy Award. The intention of the award is to allow this House to recognise and celebrate individuals who have championed democracy, or brought about social change in an emerging democracy.
A number of excellent nominations were received from hon. and right hon. Members and, following a meeting of the judging committee, I am pleased to be able to tell the House that Marvi Memon MP is the winner in this, the inaugural year of the award.
Ms Memon is a Pakistani politician who is the current chairperson of the Government of Pakistan’s Benazir Income Support Programme—the BISP—and an elected Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Ms Memon has fronted a substantial and impressive programme of empowerment through her BISP work by giving over 5.3 million of the poorest women a modest stipend for essentials such as food, clothing, healthcare and education. This has done a great deal in terms of combating poverty and child malnutrition in rural areas. Moreover, the programme also facilitates the participation of women in Pakistani electoral politics by encouraging them to obtain identity cards which allow them to vote.
I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in warmly congratulating Ms Memon. I am hoping to be able to welcome her to this House to collect the award at a future date.
I am grateful to the hon. Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh), and to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), for agreeing to serve on the judging panel. I am similarly grateful to the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), who nominated Ms Memon, as well as to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who initially suggested to me the idea for this award.