Featured stories

Latest news

Educating and empowering women is essential for developing countries

Educating girlsAlthough great strides have been made in gender equality, being born female still puts you at a disadvantage in some parts of the world. As the European Year of Development theme this month is women and girls, and it is International Women’s Day on Sunday, this is a good time to consider what more we can do for gender equality.

Labour MEPs have always been strong supporters of women’s rights and equal opportunities for all. In the past, I have called for increased representation of women on company boards in the EU, particularly as the presence of women has been shown to improve performance.

We know that in developing countries lack of access to education and poverty disproportionately affect women. In some parts of the world, Women and girls can still have limited or no access to education, leading to low paid jobs and the complex web of problems caused by poverty, including problems accessing healthcare.

In some parts of the world, going to school isn’t just forbidden for girls, but dangerous. I was honoured last year to see Malala Yousafzai receive the EU’s Sakharov human rights prize. Malala was only 15 years old when she was shot by the Taliban after campaigning for better rights for girls, and her right to go to school. Her bravery has inspired many others to support her campaign, and demonstrates how high the stakes can be for women exercising their right to education.

In developing countries, educating women isn’t just about equality; it’s a fundamental aspect of development policy. When women are educated, they can provide for themselves and their families – this doesn’t just help the individual but the whole community. Educating women makes economic sense, and countries who fail to educate their girls are paying the price.

But education is not just about jobs or training. Without sexual health education, women are left unable to take steps to prevent pregnancy, to take precautions that protect them against STIs and STDs, and ultimately to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

In countries where girls don’t have access to sexual health education, the teenage pregnancy rate is extremely high. In Mozambique, 41 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 years old are either pregnant or already have children, and 22 women a day die from complications related to childbirth or pregnancy. This means that mothers are usually young and unable to attend school, trapping them in very low paid jobs or making them reliant on others for survival.

At the September conference of the UN, we should be pushing for the new Millennium Development Goals to include a focus on women and girls in development policy. Educating girls is good for everyone – the intelligent and confident women they will grow up to be are the future.

Labour MEPs secure massive support against ISDS clause in TTIP

TTIPAn East Midlands MEP is delighted that Labour MEPs have secured the support of their colleagues in calling for the ISDS clause to be dropped from an EU-US trade deal. The controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would allow private companies to sue governments if they felt a decision or law impacted their ability to make profit. It will now be opposed by the Socialist and Democrats (S&D) group which Labour MEPs are part of.

Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, said:

“My colleagues and I have always been opposed to ISDS as we feel it endangers our public services including the NHS and puts profit ahead of the public interest. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to take a formal decision on this since the last European elections in 2014.

“In doing so today, we are responding to the thousands of constituents and the many civil society organisations that have asked us to make our position clear.”

Today the S&D group in the European Parliament decided to oppose ISDS in an almost unanimous vote. The adopted position was drafted by a Labour MEP, David Martin, who is the group’s co-ordinator on trade issues.

Glenis Willmott MEP added:

“This decision by the S&D group will be a real game changer not only in the negotiations between the EU and the US but also for the approval of a trade agreement with Canada. The European Commission and centre-right group in the Parliament will need our support if they want to see TTIP through.

“Today, we are sending them a loud and clear message we can only support it if private tribunals are left out of TTIP. Labour has proven that engaging with our neighbours gets real results in the public interest. We were instrumental in getting this agreement and we will continue to stand up for the NHS and our public services.”

Labour MEP welcomes update on Raif Badawi case

Raif Badawi

An East Midlands MEP has welcomed a reply from the EU’s top foreign minister on the case of Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 1000 lashes in Saudi Arabia last year. Glenis Willmott MEP had raised the issue directly with the Commission and signed a letter expressing concern over the treatment of Raif. In her reply, High Representative Federica Mogherini expressed serious concern regarding Raif’s case and said that she is pressing Saudi authorities to drop his sentence and abolish corporal punishments altogether.

Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands said:

“The case of Raif Badawi is another example of how the right to freedom of speech that we enjoy in Britain is disregarded in some countries like Saudi Arabia. We must absolutely condemn human rights abuses wherever they happen so I am glad Ms Mogherini is doing what she can to put pressure on the Saudi government for his release.”

Raif was sentenced after setting up a website that was critical of Saudi Arabia’s religious authorities. Over 100 MEPs had written to Ms Mogherini following the barbaric treatment of Raif who suffered 50 lashes on 9th January. He was due to endure another 50 before his sentence was suspended by a doctor who said he could not sustain more lashes. Despite calls for his release from across the world, the Saudi Arabian government are still intending to carry out the sentence.

Glenis Willmott MEP added:

“Governments and ordinary citizens from across Europe and the world are speaking out against the barbaric treatment of Raif. The Saudi government must release him and respect the right to freedom of speech and I will continue to campaign for this to happen.”

30 year anniversary of the end of the miners’ strike

miners' strikeAn East Midlands MEP is reflecting on the 30 year anniversary of the end of the 1984-85 miners’ strike which has shaped many parts of the region ever since. On 3rd March 1985, the National Union of Mineworkers voted to call off its strike which has lasted for almost a year. 30 years on, many former mining towns and villages are still feeling the effects of pit closures whilst others whilst others have had successful regeneration projects.

Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, said:

“As a miner’s daughter who grew up in Mansfield, I know today will have a special significance for many who remember the strike and how the pit closures affected whole communities across the East Midlands. Although we can’t reverse what they lost and the hardship many have endured since, we can focus on giving hope and opportunities back to them.”

The anniversary is also particularly significant given that the last working coal mine in the East Midlands, Thoresby Colliery near Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire, is due to close this year. Many former collieries have benefitted from regeneration projects partly funded by the European Union. It was recently announced that the old Markham Vale colliery near Bolsover is set to be transformed into an 85-acre business park with £6 million of EU development money.

Glenis Willmott MEP added:

“It is always heartening to see former pits getting investment and becoming productive once again but much more needs to be done to ensure no ex-mining communities continue to be left behind. This anniversary should be a time for reflection but also action for a positive future of renewal.”

  • Facebook

To see all my videos on Youtube please click here