DFID chief seeks US partnership on women's rights

Penny Mordaunt, U.K. secretary of state for international development. Photo by: Valeriano Di Domenico / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

WASHINGTON — The U.K. Department for International Development will announce a new initiative in the coming weeks focused on partnerships and broadening who the agency works with, U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt said Friday.

The United Kingdom development chief added that the initiative will not be solely focused on funding new partnerships, but about being a catalyst, adding that DFID is specifically looking to do more work with faith-based organizations.

“The women’s movement globally needs America and it needs the United Kingdom.”

— Penny Mordaunt, U.K. secretary of state for international development

Mordaunt was in Washington, D.C., this week for several meetings and speaking engagements around women’s empowerment, gender equality, and the importance of U.S. leadership on these issues.

“When we work together, we can get things done. Without our support in these areas, it is clear we will not achieve the global goals,” Mordaunt said in a speech Friday at the United States Institute of Peace. “The women’s movement globally needs America and it needs the United Kingdom. For my prime minister and for your president, this has to be a vital cause. One of the biggest mistakes a legislator can make is to assume that progress inevitably marches on, but it won’t, and it could get worse.” 

Mordaunt spoke of the many programs where the U.S. and U.K have worked together — such as supporting girls education, upholding the safety and rights of women and girls in conflict, and providing vaccines for women living in extreme poverty.

“We need to consider each and every aspect of women’s rights, and that means working to end violence against women and girls, enabling girls to access at least 12 years of quality education, empowering women economically, protecting women and girls in conflict and crisis, and promoting sexual and reproductive health rights,” she said.

The U.K. wants to deepen its partnerships and encourage more collaboration across development finance institutions, the World Bank, other bilateral donors, NGOs, and women’s movements so they can achieve greater impact, Mordaunt said.

The DFID chief also announced that the agency would launch new investment vehicles to increase opportunities for women entrepreneurs to attract capital, something she said the U.S. had a “great track record” of doing and a place where the two countries had collaborated before through G-7 and G-20 initiatives. Women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment were on the agenda when she met with presidential adviser Ivanka Trump on Thursday as part of her visit.

It is critical to keep women’s rights and human rights at the top of the international community’s agenda, and take every opportunity from summit communiques to high-level meetings to ensure it is a priority, Mordaunt said.

“We can’t shy away from the fact that if we don’t uphold women’s rights, human rights, what’s the point in half of the stuff we’re trying to get done,” she said, adding that it will take both political commitment and bureaucratic actions.  

“Without American leadership on this issue we will be in a much poorer place.”

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    Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.