Members of the Lords, including members who have worked with women’s and health organisations, debated the challenges faced by women across the globe, particularly those in developing countries, yesterday (Thursday 27 June)
Lord Loomba (Liberal Democrat) opened the debate saying that women faced challenges across the globe, but problems of women's representation and attitudes in UK public life also need to be addressed. He said Parliament should challenge itself to develop zero tolerance of sexist attitudes and promote and encourage women to demonstrate to the country and the international community that women's voices must be heard. He went on to highlight violence against women across the world and the plight of widows in developing countries.
Lord Crisp (Crossbench) former chief executive of the NHS and permanent secretary at the Department of Health, focused on health and disabilities in developing countries. He highlighted that women have higher rates of disability, and so faced a double disadvantage, and the high rates of pregnancy-related deaths - almost entirely concentrated in developing countries. He said that the equality of women was right in itself but also instrumental to the progress of development.
Baroness Hayman (Crossbench), former Lord Speaker who has worked with numerous charities and public bodies concerned with health and women, spoke of the progress of women in Parliament pointing to her own experience as an MP at a time when only four per cent of the House of Commons was female - she had to return to work two days after giving birth. She echoed the argument that not only are women entitled to rights but that their rights are key to the development of communities and countries.
Baroness Northover (Liberal Democrat) responded on behalf of the government saying that progress has been made but that in seeking greater prosperity and development worldwide it is important to recognise the huge and particular challenges facing women.
Image: House of Lords 2013/Roger Harris