Throughout history, girls and women have often been invisible outside the home. Even now, in 2016, there are countries where women are prevented from getting a job, from owning their own land and even from setting up a bank account. This strips them of their independence. For every aspect of their lives, these women are completely reliant on someone else. It's time to break these chains of dependency. Now we have the chance. Today, the UN Secretary General announced he is establishing an expert team of leading politicians, expert economists, charity heads and business leaders to jumpstart a global movement on women's economic empowerment. I'm privileged to be joining this High Level Panel, alongside the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and many eminent names who will be announced over the next few weeks.
Prime Minister Questions last week saw Conservative MP Philip Davies argue (sadly echoing the comments of an MP from our own benches over the Christmas break) that money should be taken from the international development budget to pay for the much needed extra resources to deal with the consequences of the recent flooding. This is a false choice - however, it is not the only threat to Britain's international development budget.
In a world of increased polarisation between cultures, anything that lowers barriers is important. I joined VSO as chief executive in March of this year and in that time I have seen enough to convince me that there has never been a more important time to encourage people to volunteer internationally.
When Cynthia invited me to help prepare lunch at her home in the rural village of Dwabor in Ghana I was so excited. Winning Celebrity MasterChef has really ignited my passion for food and I didn't expect to find such yummy cuisine in Ghana, like Cynthia's groundnut soup. It was also a great opportunity to speak to this incredible woman, mum to mum, about the huge dreams she has for her triplets Eric, Erica and Isobella. Money raised by UK schools and the public and matched by the UK government is improving education across Africa, giving children like the triplets a brighter future and the tools they need to escape poverty for good.
At the most basic and essential level, aid is and will remain a vital source of funding for many countries who cannot yet raise enough tax to pay for much-needed social services and goods including things like education and healthcare but also in the longer term helping to build the capacity to raise and more effectively use those resources. UK aid contributes to building a fairer world where more people live free from poverty, fewer die from preventable causes like malnutrition or childbirth and there are more opportunities for all.
One of the things I love about my job is that I get to be optimistic every day. That's because I, and my colleagues working in international development, look at the problems of the world that are rooted in poverty and inequality, and refuse to accept that the world is not smart enough or rich enough to defeat them.
This week we should celebrate these announcements and progress on nutrition. Thanks to commitments made at Nutrition for Growth in 2013 being met, and with the opportunities presented by the Financing for Development conference, we can ensure the good news for nutrition keeps coming in the months and years to come.
Today the Overseas Development Institute are releasing a report called 'Financing the Future' which shows that free basic universal healthcare would cost $74 billion a year to deliver in the 33 poorest countries - equivalent to just 4% of total bailout support provided to the banks by the UK Government.
Of the billion people worldwide who have a disability, the vast majority live in developing countries. People with disabilities represent some of the most excluded of all groups in the community. They are less likely to have access to healthcare and education, and in turn find making a livelihood and escaping poverty that much more difficult, if not impossible.
It is sadly true that one of the biggest and most neglected challenges facing the global community is still malnutrition, specifically undernutrition. It affects more people than any single disease and is an underlying cause of nearly half of all child deaths. In the global fight to end suffering and reduce poverty, tackling undernutrition will have a significant and lasting impact.
I say ending violence against women and girls requires all of us - men and boys, women and girls, governments, communities and activists. I genuinely believe that we have a common goal. And I genuinely believe that we can work together in a way that does not reassert male power over women, that keeps women and girls at the centre, and focuses on transforming gender inequality rather than just adding men and boys.