In his first speech in Washington, D.C., as U.K. secretary of state for international development, Andrew Mitchell focused on the importance of promoting women-related concerns as an approach to development.
Improving maternal health, promoting women’s access to education and supporting the economic empowerment of women are among the top priorities of the U.K. Department for International Development, Mitchell said in a speech delivered June 25 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
DfID is venturing into new approaches to help improve maternal health in developing countries, according to Mitchell. The international development secretary reiterated plans of DfID to explore partnerships to spearhead pilot approaches to maternal health, such as the use of live Internet link-ups or mobile phones for emergency operations and referrals. He added that the department has recently launched a fund to support the transfer of knowledge from health experts to health professionals and attendants in the developing world.
Providing girls with access to quality education is also among the key priorities of DfID, Mitchell shared. He recommended the use of cash incentives to promote education, as well as health.
“We’ve seen too that when women are empowered economically they are more likely to have a voice in the community and to be advocates for other women,” Mitchell noted of the importance of empowering women economically.
The secretary welcomed the creation of a new U.N. gender entity, which he said is a “historic opportunity to create an efficient, powerful and well-resourced body that has the chance to make a positive impact on the lives of millions of women and girls across the world.”
In his speech, Mitchell also briefly discussed the U.K.’s new coalition government’s approach to development. The government will tackle development with a new agenda that highlights value for money, transparency, accountability and empowerment, the secretary explained.
He urged the U.S. to follow the U.K.’s lead in keeping “aid untied from commercial interests.”