My Biggest Hope for the World Humanitarian Summit

24 May 2016
When I was a girl on my first visit to my mother's birthplace, Smithville, a tiny ramshackle village in the mountains of central Jamaica, my grandmother carried our three enormous suitcases on her head down a long mountain path to the bus, where we would say goodbye and return to London.

She made it look like nothing and I remember admiring the strength and grace in which she carried the heavy load.

Now, as shadow international development secretary, cognisant of the fact that empowering women in the developing world is the key to strengthening the livelihoods of communities, the image of my grandmother returns to me.

This weekend, stakeholders from officials from government, the UN and the multilateral agencies descend on Istanbul to attend to the World Humanitarian Summit amid a dangerous rising of instability, inequality and temperatures across the globe.

I am glad the summit has a particular focus on women. But coming out of the summit we want this to be truly reflected not just in the statements or loosely worded documents but actual policy that is backed up by implementation and of course funding.

The forces of patriarchy remain as strong. As does an economic system that does not reward women for the vital work of raising new human beings and often denies them jobs and the rights to land, education and sexual health. Rather than being seen as a solution to a community's ills, women in the global south are all too often reduced to a collection of problems.

We need to take action against these forces of conservatism. To support women's ability to mobilise and achieve financial independence.

Despite the British government's newfound attention to women and girls the solutions are top down, dramatically limiting their effectiveness.

The government's own aid watchdog IACI has urged the government to significantly increase funding for local women's rights organisations. The advocacy group Action Aid suggests boosting British aid finance to local women's groups by £70million over the next three years.

OECD figures for 2013-2014 show that, of the US$39.9billion in aid committed to supporting gender equality on average per year, just 1% was reported as direct funding for women's and girls' equality organisations and institutions. This simply isn't good enough.

In their rush to help the development sector at times forgets exactly what 'empowerment' is. Women do not need us to deliver for them. They need our support and resources to allow them to deliver for themselves.

My biggest hope for the World Humanitarian Summit is that resources are allocated to support grass roots women-led organisations, which have been shown to have the greatest impact in delivering both safety for the women of the global south and prosperity for their communities.

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