International Women's Day is an important opportunity to reflect on how much progress we have made, but also an integral moment to address what still needs to be done to ensure women are able to exist equally to men in all walks of life.
This year has seen a huge displacement of people following the conflict in Syria and across the Middle East. This is a humanitarian crisis that needs to be swiftly addressed, but in particular the thousands of women and children who are struggling to survive in these circumstances need immediate support.
On average 2,000 refugees are arriving in Europe every day. As of 15 January 2016, just over 55% of those arriving are women and children, compared to only 27% in June 2015. In January the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) reported that sexual and gender-based violence was growing, with cases including female refugees being forced to engage in transactional sex to "pay for" travel documents on their journey. This violence needs to be addressed by all our governments and the gangs that are operating within and on the way to camps need to be tackled by the authorities as a priority.
The temporary camps are not only not safe enough, but are also allowing thousands of women to loose economic security. These camps although we hope they will be temporary, will likely exist for a significant period of time and have substantial impact on female refugee economic empowerment and future.
Education is key in all the camps. Everybody who is in the camps need to have access to education. A day out of schooling can't be made up and the world runs the risk of loosing thousands of people who could have made significant impact on our global economy.
Refugees should not be seen as just a burden to European nations, but as potential important economic contributors. Every man, woman and child could play an important part in ensuring that the economy grows and prospers.
Beyond this, I continue to call for women to be allowed and welcomed into taking part in all economical, social and political decision making across the globe. Women should always have a place at the table, we are 50% of the population after all and provide just as much economic value as men. But this needs to be supported in both financial and educational terms, in order for women to have every possibility of success.