Bishop of Durham speaks in a debate on women’s equality

On 17th March 2022, the House of Lords debated a motion to take note regarding Protecting the Equality of Women in the UK and Internationally. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is my pleasure to speak in today’s debate and to follow the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed. Like him, I will begin by focusing on international issues. I did put the word around to see if any of my female colleagues were available, because they are more qualified to speak than me, but none of them were today so you have to put up with me. I am glad to have this opportunity.

First, there is much I want to celebrate. As part of my brief, I take special interest in two of the poorest nations on earth, Burundi and Lesotho—one of the others is South Sudan. These nations are making great progress on women’s equality. It has been my privilege to visit Lesotho a couple of times and Burundi very many times. I would like to share some examples.

This month, the Women’s Investment and Development Bank has been introduced in Burundi. This has been praised by the UN as a step towards women’s economic empowerment in that nation. The bank will grant low-interest loans to women’s collectives and their development projects, and will provide training on profitable business.

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Bishop of Portsmouth on women’s equality in the Church of England and the distance still to travel

On 7th March 2019 the Government Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford led a debate in the House of Lords, “That this House takes note of International Women’s Day and the United Kingdom’s role in advancing gender equality globally.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of PortsmouthMy Lords, I rise with some caution, conscious of the considerable risks as a man speaking on International Women’s Day. But dwelling in ambiguity is perhaps the lot of those occupying these Benches. I am acutely aware, for instance, that as a Lord spiritual speaking on defence matters, I interest myself in swords and in ploughshares.

It was sporting those two hats that I recently watched the RAF’s current recruitment advertisement. Its images depict the reality of women in a service in which every role is open to everyone. We see women readying themselves for combat, as engineers and pilots. The voiceover, alas, articulates a more familiar reality, in which women are told, predominantly by men, that their concerns centre on lip gloss, skincare and the contents of their wardrobe. The disparity between voice and image strikingly expresses the distance travelled, but also the many miles we have yet to traverse. I sensed some of this while listening to this week’s Questions and debates in your Lordships’ House. We have reflected this week on FGM, on consent, on pay and abuse, on how much has been done, on how much we want to do and on how much there is to do.

Bishop of Birmingham highlights needs to gender equality goal in post-2015 development agenda

On 25th July 2013, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to follow up the report of the United Nations High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, asked a supplementary question:

01.04.14 Bishop of BirminghamThe Lord Bishop of Birmingham: Like other noble Lords, I applaud the Prime Minister’s initiative and leadership in this area and encourage him to press on. In view of the importance that the report attaches to gender equality and empowerment, can the Minister confirm that the Government will look to next year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, which starts in March, to build consensus among UN member states on this matter, ahead of any final negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda?

Baroness Northover: I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we are already doing that. A great deal of work went into ensuring that this year’s CSW could reach agreement. It required a lot of work but we were delighted that that agreement was reached. We are already working on the next one and are delighted that the second of the 12 goals is on gender equality.


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