The Blog

David Cameron Must Keep His Promises to Women

Perhaps most startling of the indignities and injustices women still face is the stark fact that one in three women suffer violence. Women like Wangu Kanja from Kenya, who was car-jacked and raped in Kenya's capital city, Nairobi...

Perhaps most startling of the indignities and injustices women still face is the stark fact that one in three women suffer violence.

Women like Wangu Kanja from Kenya, who was car-jacked and raped in Kenya's capital city, Nairobi.

Wangu is not a victim, she is a survivor. She has been a fearless activist, campaigning for the rights of her fellow Kenyan wanawake (women) to be free from violence; founding The Wangu Kanja foundation which works to provide access to justice, medical care and economic opportunities for other survivors. ActionAid are proud to support her work and to have her as one of the leaders of our Fearless campaign to end violence against women.

This weekend the world will celebrates the agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Feminists and women's rights activists will feel they've heard it all before. They have.

20 years ago to be precise; at the Fourth World Conference on Women, addressed by Aung San Suu Kyi and a young Hillary Clinton. Women's rights organisations came together with Governments to agree the Beijing Platform for Action, a bold declaration aimed at achieving greater equality and opportunity for women.

Over the past two decades ActionAid has been at the forefront of global efforts to end violence against women, but it has been an uphill struggle. The problems our leaders are today trying to solve - conflict, inequality and rampant, destructive consumption - can in part be understood as a failure to keep the promises made to women in 1995.

So this weekend at the UN in New York, one of the largest ever gatherings of world leaders will set the seal on a new generation of promises for a better world. And once again, it is in how we keep our promises to women that we may judge progress.

There is a dedicated goal on gender equality, including a target to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The UK Government, to its credit, has been a staunch supporter of these goals alongside efforts spearheaded by the former Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Development Secretary Justine Greening to tackle sexual violence in conflict and end female genital mutilation.

David Cameron has promised to act. Launching his new Government with a nice bit of theatre he allowed the TV cameras into his first Cabinet meeting. There, holding a copy of his winning manifesto for all to see, he set his Ministers the challenge to implement it all... in full.

Now, many of those Ministers were probably quite surprised to find themselves sitting at the Cabinet table, so I'm not sure many of them had even read the thing in full. But I did - all 80 pages. It's the kind of thing you have to do in my job.

And here's why. Squirrelled away in there, on the very last page in fact, you'll find a pretty important line. In it the PM promises to "continue to lead efforts to tackle violence against women and girls... at home and abroad." Not just be involved in these efforts you'll notice, but lead.

Fortunately, the chance to show this leadership comes this very weekend. The same week that his Chancellor has been touring China promising to be their partner in the west, the PM has an invitation in his inbox to join the Chinese president and 70 other Heads of Government at a Global Leaders Meeting to catalyse new momentum in the fight for women's rights. It is badly needed. ActionAid want to see David Cameron attending that meeting and delivering on his promise to women and girls.

Political leaders must stand alongside women like Wangu. It is fearless women like her, speaking out and demanding their rights, who will lead action to end violence.

We know from decades of experience that when women are empowered to lead change, when they are given adequate resources with a proper plan and institutions to hold governments and perpetrators to account, that we can reduce violence.

So this week, having delivered a petition of over 60,000 signatures to Downing Street, ActionAid is asking David Cameron to stand with Wangu and others like her, when he goes to New York, by joining the special meeting of Heads of Government and committing to three concrete actions:

• Back a fund that will ensure that vital resources get directly to women's rights organisations battling against violence on the frontline;

• Work with other key countries to develop and deliver national plans to end violence;

• Support a global watchdog report to track progress on the new target on ending violence against women.

Surely we cannot wait another two decades to see our promises finally kept.