Penny Mordaunt appointed minister for women and equalities

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt. Photo by: Stephen Jaffe / IMF Staff Photo / CC BY-NC-ND

LONDON — U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt will take up the cross-government post of minister for gender and equalities in addition to her responsibilities at the Department for International Development, it was announced Monday.

The move comes after Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who previously held the post, resigned Sunday evening over a lack of clarity in her account of deportation targets amid controversy around the treatment of the so-called Windrush generation — Commonwealth citizens who migrated to the U.K. legally after World War II.

The gender and equalities post can be fulfilled by any sitting member of the prime minister’s cabinet.

Mordaunt will take up the post immediately, and she told Devex in an email: “In today’s world everyone should have the same choices and opportunities to reach their full potential. It is a privilege to lead on this important issue.”

The appointment comes as Mordaunt deals with an escalating scandal over sexual misconduct in the aid sector, and days after a second major international NGO withdrew from DFID bidding while the issue is investigated.

She said last week: “I am committed to driving up standards across the aid sector and I expect every organization that we work with to have rigorous reporting and complaints mechanisms in place to protect beneficiaries and employees alike.”

The wave of sexual abuse allegations in the aid sector began in February, when it was revealed that several members of Oxfam staff had exploited women in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It has been a major focus of the U.K. aid sector in the weeks since, with Mordaunt establishing a “safeguarding unit” within DFID and calling for a summit of INGO leaders to address the issue.

Rudd resigned following days of public pressure, after the Guardian revealed that legal migrants from Commonwealth countries and their children who were invited to the U.K. to bolster the workforce after World War II were in some cases being denied health care and threatened with deportation because they could not provide proof of legal residency. Commonwealth citizens were allowed free movement within the Commonwealth until 1968, but because the new arrivals were not required to register for citizenship when they arrived in the U.K., many do not hold official documentation.

Rudd said she had not been aware of deportation targets within her department, but it was later shown her office was sent a memo detailing performance against the targets.

“I have reviewed the advice I was given on this issue and become aware of information provided to my office which makes mention of targets,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “I should have been aware of this, and take full responsibility for the fact that I was not.”

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.