VSO volunteer David Atherton meets Linda McAvan MEP to discuss women in power

| September 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

David Atherton meets Linda MCEvan MEPBy David Atherton

I have recently returned from Malawi where I was volunteering as a nurse tutor and clinical instructor on a maternal health programme. In the course of my 18 months there, I saw what can happen when women are given a voice, and was encouraged by the nursing students I met who had fought to be allowed to follow their brothers into further education and the prospect of professional employment. Grace, a midwifery student arrived at our college from a rural village and was the first of her sisters to complete secondary education. Although I was amazed at her tenacity it made me realise that women in Malawi had to fight for everything.

Back in the UK I found myself following news from Africa closely but soon realised that my job was not complete and that a major part of tacking the kinds of gender inequality that I saw firsthand lies in international politics. So I started local, contacted my local MEP Linda McAvan and arranged to meet her at her constituency offices to discuss development, especially the role women play in creating lasting progress. It was a great bonus when I discovered that she had been appointed chair of the Development Committee (DEVE) in the new European Parliament that formed this summer, increasing her influence on international decisions

We discussed the core facts that women complete 66% of the worlds work, yet earn only 10% of the world’s income and 1% of the world’s property. We also touched on the improvements have been made in part thanks to funding by international donors such as the EU but we were in agreement that more needs to be done to achieve equality for women

We spoke about Voluntary Service Overseas’ (VSO) ‘Women in Power’ campaign, which is advocating for a stand-alone goal to focus on increasing women’s participation in public and political life when a new framework replaces the Millennium Development Goals next year. And crucially, we shared how the fight for women’s voices to be heard is not confined to the developing world. The recent election of the commissioners for the European Commission saw only nine out of 28 commission places filled by women, and women hold only 33% of higher ranking jobs in the European Union.

Linda McAvan showed an understanding of the current issues and as someone who has fought for women’s rights in Europe she seemed genuinely behind a call for a global shift in gender equality. She confirmed that one of her main priorities as chair of DEVE is The Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development and that she wants to work closely with charities such as VSO by supporting theWomen in Power’ campaign.’

This is the kind of news I want to share on Facebook with the nurses I worked with in Malawi to show that in seats of power far away there are people who really do want to improve things for them, their sisters, mothers, daughters and for the babies they are delivering in Malawi today.

For more information about VSO’s Women in Power campaign, click here.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, EU, European Parliament, Gender equality, Politics

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