News

Margot Parker MEP to speak at ground-breaking India Week in Stamford


Published Oct 12, 2016

Margot_11_(1).jpgMargot Parker MEP will visit Stamford Endowed School on Friday to help celebrate India Week. The school has recently won a Discovery Democracy Award from HM Cabinet Office and is now forging links with two schools in Vellore, India, through a new project - Lincs to India. The project is being led by students from different age groups and chaired by Year 12 pupil Zishi Zhang. The venture will include fundraising, sending books and hopefully, introducing computers. A long term goal is for exchanges to be organised where visits can take place in both countries.

Margot will talk at the event, focusing on empowering women to gain an education and create their own way in life. She said: "I was delighted to be asked to speak at the event and I am very much looking forward to seeing how the school is continuing to establish links between the two communities to foster mutual understanding and tolerance.

"Many world and government organisations have agreed that the most effective methods of creating knowledge, dialogue and economic effectiveness is through small scale operations which are easier to manage and can stay true to their founding ideals.

"In this regard the school's efforts to establish links with two schools in Vellore and to help through fundraising and book sending with their continued ability to get a good level of education is to be commended. There are many projects where schools in the UK, for example, are involved with particular schools in overseas locations and these ties have developed and strengthened the ties between the two countries, both host and recipient, over several years.

"Students from both locations visit each other, gain an understanding of the struggles to gain an education and a meaningful job after education is completed. Many students who continue on to university education consider coming to UK institutions and then return with higher level skills to in turn foster development and encouragement within their own country.

"Many of the development projects have concentrated on the topics of providing educational opportunities particularly for girls and women with particular emphasis on empowering the women to gain an education, create a micro-business or employment, be enabled to feed their family and in turn create opportunities for the next and subsequent generations to reach their full potential in life.

"The UN Women's organisation has established that empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men and families and communities.

"The private sector is a key partner in efforts to advance gender equality and empower women. Current research demonstrating that gender diversity helps businesses perform better signals that self-interest and common interest can come together. Yet, ensuring the inclusion of women’s talents, skills and energies—from executive offices to the factory floor and the supply chain—requires intentional actions and deliberate policies.

"The Women’s Empowerment Principles offer practical guidance to business and the private sector on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Developed through a partnership between UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the Principles are designed to support companies in reviewing existing policies and practices—or establishing new ones—to realise women’s empowerment."

She said, in brief, the principles were:
1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
2. Treat all women and men fairly at work—respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
4. Promote education, training and professional development for women
5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

Read the speech in full below:

I want to thank you for inviting me to attend your India Week. I have enjoyed very much seeing the ways in which all of you at Stamford Endowed Schools have been involved in, and are continuing to establish links between the two communities to foster mutual understanding and tolerance.

Many world and government organisations have agreed that the most effective methods of creating knowledge, dialogue and economic effectiveness is through small scale operations which are easier to manage and can stay true to their founding ideals. In this regard your efforts to establish links with two schools in Vellore, India and to help through fundraising and book sending with their continued ability to get a good level of education is to be commended. There are many projects where schools in the UK for example are involved with particular schools in overseas locations and these ties have developed and strengthened the ties between the two countries, both host and recipient, over several years. Students from both locations visit each other, gain an understanding of the struggles to gain an education and a meaningful job after education is completed. Many students who continue on to university education consider coming to UK institutions and then return with higher level skills to in turn foster development and encouragement within their own country. In this way economic development is encouraged and becomes an ever increasing part of the local economy.

Many of the development projects have concentrated on the topics of providing educational opportunities particularly for girls and women with particular emphasis on empowering the women to gain an education, create a micro business or employment and in turn be enabled to feed their family and in turn create opportunities for the next and subsequent generations to reach their full potential in life.

Concentrating on projects focused particularly on women is necessary and important in all cultures but especially in those countries and cultures where women have occupied an historically subservient position in society and where a strong patriarchy is in existence. Encouraging women into education is important as it has proven time and again that an education gives women choices in their life and as a result they are more easily able to establish themselves as effective members of society. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women can hold positions in engineering, education and medicine – even be airline pilots, yet they still are required to ask their “guardian male” for permission to travel. Without access to an education these women would have remained at home confined to domestic tasks and effectively being pawns in the male dominated society. Take a moment to consider what your career choices would be without an education; I suspect they are not what you are intending to become. The difference is Education and as I said it makes a difference!

The International Centre for Research on Women believes that empowering women and girls lifts communities. They are encouraging an increasing momentum among companies that donating to causes that empowers women yields a “high return on investment” i This is quite a new thing for corporate giving because it is targeted giving to specific schemes which are then linked with the companies. In this way the

companies are able to use the success of the schemes they are involved in to develop their corporate identity and maybe extend their brand via their marketing campaigns to potential customers that they would not have been able to reach without the continued and targeted donating to their specific projects. They gain potential market share for their products and the participants in the projects gain an education, medical care, safe water supply among other things. This is more than just one company making a charitable donation to a specific charity once a year and only mentioning it in their accounts and maybe at their annual general meeting, but is an identifiable commitment to another group of people in a different location and culture with an identifiable need that they are able to meet on an ongoing basis. This is a Connection between peoples. Companies who participate say how much their staff get out of getting involved in the projects, volunteering and mentoring and also training and potential employment opportunities as necessary. Companies that participate in these schemes include large commercial companies and financial institutions.

In the field of women’s economic empowerment, such an integrated approach not only delivers a higher return on investment across the corporate value chain, but it also addresses the underlying structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment. It utilises all of a company’s potential levers to create impact: people, investments, brand, customers, purchasing power and partnerships. This approach is put into place by implementing eight building blocks for achieving women’s economic empowerment. I list the ways and some examples that this integrated approach can make a difference:

* Access to equitable and safe employment (Danone Egypt’s MCC Project pursues and expands business with women owned suppliers. )

* Education and training (Nestle work with women in cocoa supply chain and their training)

* Access to and control over economic resources and opportunities (Contract with businesses who support financial literacy and financial stability among women employees)

* Voice in society and political influence (Contract with businesses who have and promote women leaders)

* Freedom from the risk of violence (Contract with businesses who enforce policies against harassment and gender-based violence)

* Freedom of movement (Contract with businesses who ensure safe transport for women)

* Access to and control over health and family formation (Contract with businesses who enforce policies for equal rights to healthcare and health-related absences)

* Social protection and childcare (Contract with businesses who provide equal access to long term savings, insurance or other social protection mechanisms)

In one such way the role of charitable giving has evolved for corporate organisations with good effect.

In addition, Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes can also be used to improve the status of girls for example in Northern India ii These Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT’s) can be used as a possible solution to delay the age of marriage and improve opportunities for girls and women.

Child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union where one or both spouses is below the age of 18. Currently 720 million women worldwide were child brides. Child marriage is a violation of human rights and significantly hinders development outcomes for girls. Girls married early are vulnerable to partner violence, sexual coercion and early childbearing. Apart from the health risks, girls who marry early are excluded from further educational and economic opportunities. CCT’s provide cash as an incentive to fulfil certain criteria determined to have a positive social impact eg greater use of school facilities or use of health services. Although still a relatively new form of economic development it is hoped CCT’s can change deep-rooted norms and practices and has huge implications for programmes and policy reform. For example in one study involving CCT’s the proportion of women aged 20-24 who married before age 18 in Haryana, Northern India, declined from 57% in 1992-1993 to 41% in 2005/6, and the pace of decline has been faster than the average of all states across India. The study also showed that increasing numbers of girls remained studying and were completing higher grades in schools, and moving on to tertiary education.

So we know that targeted giving, tied to specific programmes tends to be successful in making social change and increasing opportunities for girls and women. But what must it be like for girls and women to live in societies where they are classed as disposable, unimportant or simply second class?

Think for a moment about your own family circumstances. You are all no doubt in caring family units with or without siblings. You have food, heat, clothes and safe accommodation. When you are sick you can go to the doctor and you are obtaining an education. You have a range of hobbies and interests and have some idea of a possible career path you are interested in following, whether or not that includes having to study for a degree. You are able to go out and travel gaining experiences, confidence and knowledge about the world. You are constantly making and refining your choices and are able to do so supported by your family. You are the fortunate ones; much of those rights and responsibilities are denied girls over the world. How does that make you feel? Angry, upset and wanting to change things for the better perhaps? If so, you are not alone: many world agencies also want to improve things and are trying to do so. The United Nations, World Bank and many individual governments want to get involved and get things moving faster towards a more equitable future for the 52% of the world’s population that is female. It has been 30 years since the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City. The world has already witnessed great changes and improvements in womens status and in gender equality in most developed and developing countries. In the last 10 years the lives of women and girls around the world have, on average improved due in part to

concerted action by the international community and national governments and in part through the actions of women and girls themselves. There is a greater awareness that gender equality is important for economic development and poverty reduction. There is also a greater commitment to promoting gender equality almost everywhere. However gender inequalities still prevail in many countries as evidenced by indicators such as high and unchanged maternal mortality, disparities in access to secondary education and basis health services, and women’s underrepresentation at all government levels.

The UN Womeniii organisation have established that empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men and families and communities.

The private sector is a key partner in efforts to advance gender equality and empower women. Current research demonstrating that gender diversity helps businesses perform better signals that self-interest and common interest can come together. Yet, ensuring the inclusion of women’s talents, skills and energies—from executive offices to the factory floor and the supply chain—requires intentional actions and deliberate policies. The Women’s Empowerment Principles offer practical guidance to business and the private sector on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Developed through a partnership between UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the Principles are designed to support companies in reviewing existing policies and practices—or establishing new ones—to realize women’s empowerment.

In brief, the Principles are:

1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality

2. Treat all women and men fairly at work—respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination

3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers

4. Promote education, training and professional development for women

5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women

6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy

7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality - See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/partnerships/businesses-and-foundations/womens-empowerment-principles#sthash.nzh3RMzZ.dpuf

In conclusion, we know that empowering women works to improve their lives and encourage economic opportunities. Increasing educational attainment among women improves the skills of the workforce and encourages women to demand and achieve positions of power and change in all economic and political fields. Certain instruments and projects are proving influential in effecting these changes and increasingly the women themselves are demanding social change. However, it is not just in developing countries that girls and women are making changes. Here in the UK and the West women are increasing their educational and economic opportunities. More women are running their own companies, seeking high office or

becoming corporate chairs (well maybe that one still needs a bit of work!). Still the question of Equal Pay is not settled with women being paid less than men for the same job. We are still fighting that battle and we are not giving up!

Therefore, what can we take away from today? We can see that helping others to help themselves works. We can see that not all the battles are won and there are still many to fight. We know that women in the UK have many more economic and professional opportunities than their grandmothers but there is still more to do. I therefore offer these suggestions to foster and empower women within your school and social groups.

1. Boost self-esteem. Women that esteem themselves feel more powerful than those that suffer from low self-esteem. President Obama appointed several women to his cabinet and advisory team. Many of them initially were talked down at meetings and in an attempt to end this they decided to encourage each of them and when one women made a point, they would encourage them and name them as they did so, confirming that it was a woman who had made the point. President Obama noticed this and it was a success in getting women to be acknowledged for their ideas. Think how many times you have experienced a situation where a point is not considered “made” until a man has stated it. Not so in the Oval office – now!

2. Education. Simply put it is important and bestows the ability to make choices and empower women to control their own lives – professional, economic and relationships.

3. Allow women to make decisions. Have debates in school for forming opinions and getting practice in having your voice heard.

4. Connect with women. Establish and continue links with influential women and ask them how they have done it. Look at Emma Watson who has gone from Actor to Activist via Education.

5. Give women opportunities. To do anything, talk about their lives and explain their choices.

6. Honour them. Women who have gone before you have fought for the rights and responsibilities you expect today. Learn from them and maybe say “Thank you”.

7. Delight in them. Women are complex creatures – just ask your boyfriends! They do however have a range of skills, talents and quirks that make them unique and fascinating individuals. Let them participate fully in society and see what will happen!

I have enjoyed very much your involvement with international female empowerment today and I wish you all every success in this and all your endeavours.

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