Skip to main content

Girls’ Education

Volume 636: debated on Tuesday 20 February 2018

2. What steps his Department is taking to support the delivery of girls’ education throughout the world. (903890)

9. What steps his Department is taking to support the delivery of girls’ education throughout the world. (903897)

Girls’ education is a moral imperative. Women and girls have the right to be educated, equal, empowered and safe. This is one of the Foreign Secretary’s top priorities, and he has instructed his officials to put girls’ education at the heart of their work.

Given the appalling revelations about some employees in Oxfam and the subsequent attempts to cover that up, could the Minister assure us that any organisation that is asked to deliver education for girls’ programmes anywhere in the world by the British Government is fit for purpose?

I share my hon. Friend’s assessment that this is an utterly despicable example. I hope he agrees that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has shown real leadership by writing to all the organisations with which we contract to ensure that safeguarding levels are raised. I believe that you have allowed her to make a statement on this subject later this afternoon, Mr Speaker.

During the Foreign Secretary’s recent trip, what discussions did he have with Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh on the Government’s policy on the education of women and girls?

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary champions this issue at every opportunity, including the opportunity that my hon. Friend mentioned. He will be aware that not only has my right hon. Friend shown tremendous leadership on this issue, but he has appointed a special envoy for gender equality and has really put this work at the heart of the diplomatic network.

Khwendo Kor provides education at the north-west frontier province of Pakistan, an incredibly dangerous environment for women and girls. UK Friends of Khwendo Kor tries to bring people over to the UK to provide human rights support, but the Home Office often blocks them. What discussion has the Minister had with the Home Office to help this situation?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the important work that a range of different organisations do, often in partnership with us. If she has specific examples on which she would like me to make representations to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I would be delighted to receive her correspondence.

Further to the previous question, what discussions has the Minister had with the Government of Pakistan on the education of girls in that country? Can she tell the House what proportion of UK aid to Pakistan goes towards the education of women and young girls?

It is certainly very significant. Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting two very impressive education Ministers from different parts of Pakistan. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, education is quite devolved across different parts of Pakistan. As for the specific statistics that he wishes me to provide, I will follow that up in a letter to him.

I welcome the work that my hon. Friend and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are doing in this field, but does she agree that in a place such as Africa, a huge amount more needs to be done?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a huge amount to be done. Something like 136 million girls around the world are not in education. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said, this is truly the Swiss army knife of development, because it works in so many different ways. It helps to resolve issues of conflict and is also important to advance global prosperity.

CNN recently reported the story of 12-year-old Halima from Yemen, who wants to become a doctor, but whose father is being forced to make the choice to marry her off to make ends meet. He will receive £2,000 as a dowry for marrying off his daughter. What will the Minister do to prevent conflict in Yemen so that young women there can fulfil their potential?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight a particular example that illustrates the challenges faced by girls around the world. The UK Government have demonstrated significant leadership on this issue as a way of progressing peace and development around the world, and are urging all parties to the conflict in Yemen to make a political solution.