Adolescent girls can play an enormous role in bringing about sustainable development. But for too long their rights and potential have been overlooked by world leaders, and this has held back development and equality. At last international momentum is building to address this gap.
The story of Zeinabou, from the Zinder Region of Niger, exemplifies the importance of empowering girls. When she was 15, her parents forced her to drop out of school and marry an older man. In the marriage, she suffered repeated and escalating violence. If she had not been able to escape and divorce her husband, her life trajectory would likely have been limited to repeating the vicious cycle of poverty and inequality experienced by far too many girls before her.
I’ve gone down with Canvasser’s Heel. Well, the doctor called it plantar fasciitis: her first question to me after I had described the symptoms were, ‘Does your job involve a lot of standing and walking?’
The NHS defines it as ‘excessive, constant abnormal pulling and stretching of the fibrous bands that support the arch, [which] causes the heel bone to become inflamed and painful. This constant irritation can sometimes lead to a heel spur (bony growth) forming on the bottom of the heel bone. The patient usually complains of pain with the first step in the morning, some relief following activity, but the pain returning after extended amounts of time standing or walking.’
I’d thought I’d bruised my heel somehow, and had gone on canvassing (and limping) over several weekends, until it was clearly getting worse rather than better. The cure starts with icepacks applied, then rest, physiotherapy, walking gently, and wearing well-padded shoes.
This used, apparently, to be called ‘Policeman’s Heel’. Brian Paddick hadn’t heard of it, and the policeman I spoke to in Liverpool during our Spring conference only said that ‘we spend most of our time sitting in cars these days’. But the officer on duty outside the Commons as I left last Thursday said he’d suffered from it: too much walking around on hard pavements, made worse by standing for long periods on street corners. Road runners often suffer from this, too, I’m told.
So what should the dedicated Liberal activist do to avoid succumbing to this in the course of an election campaign? Wear comfortable lace-up shoes with thick soles and heels, for a start: Clark’s shoes, or trainers, are much better than thin-soled shoes. Sit down from time to time; twiddle your toes, flex your feet by going up on your toes and back every now and again. Put padded insoles in and arch supports, if that helps more. Think about the risks of spending too long on concrete and tarmac; walk on the grass when you can.
Lib Dem Wales Minister Jenny Randerson speaks on Welsh tourism during visit to Llanelly House and Llanelli’s Discovery Centre.
During her visit she will also meet with people in West Wales who have benefited from this week’s budget, in particular farmers, first-time buyers and pensioners in the region.
Jenny Randerson said:
The Welsh tourism industry is a great success story for our country, bringing investment and creating jobs across the country. Millions of people travel to Wales every year to see our beautiful scenery, visit our historic buildings and sample our award-winning food and drink.
But our success depends on how well we all pull together to make our combined efforts greater than the sum of its parts. Here in Llanelly House, their innovative approach to working together has achieved fantastic results and I want to see this replicated across Wales.
Tourism is Wales’ second-largest industry and generated £2.3 billion of spending in 2013.
Of the 96.72 million trips taken in Great Britain from January-October 2014, 8.9 per cent of these were to Wales, an increase from the same period in 2013.
The total volume of nights spent in Wales during the first ten months of 2014 was 1.5 per cent up compared with the same period in 2013.
Spending on visits to Wales in the first ten months of 2014 has risen compared with the same period in 2013.
Jenny Randerson will be visiting tourism attractions in Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 March.
As well as visiting the 300-year old Llanelly House following its 10-year restoration project, Baroness Randerson will visit: Llanelli’s Discovery centre where visitors can find out all about the area’s tourism attractions; Burry Port harbour, Wales’ newest marina with a 450-berth facility; Flanagan’s coastline café in Llanelli, famous for its range of ice-cream; Cwmcerrig Farmshop and Grill in Gorslas and the soon to be re-opened Cardigan castle in Ceredigion.
Last week was my first visit to the Commission on the Status of Women(CSW), an annual event that has been held at the UN since 1946. Over 100 ministers and 8000 civil society advocates attended, with events ranging from set piece plenary sessions where ministers deliver their national statements, to side events on every issue you could imagine.
This year, we were celebrating 20 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing agreed powerful commitments for advancing women’s rights, known as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
That ground-breaking declaration was and still is a blueprint for what needs to happen to advance women’s rights – but has yet to be fully realised anywhere in the world.
I had long heard reports of CSW. Often I heard that progress seemed difficult to achieve. Indeed, it was challenging enough to stop the world moving backwards on women’s rights, especially in the sexual and reproductive rights which must underpin women’s autonomy.
Having heard about CSW for so many years without ever being a participant, it was extraordinary to represent the UK in that famous UN General Assembly Hall.
Early Friday morning, as others made their way to Liverpool for Conference, I set off to Hereford, following in the footsteps of a large number of my colleagues in the Lords. Our local candidate Lucy Hurds has been hugely successful in getting our Peers out of the House of Lords and onto the streets of Hereford including John Shipley, Jenny Randerson, Nigel Jones, Sally Hamwee, Shirley Williams and Chris Fox. She’s clearly been effective in getting others out too and it was great to see a good number of Lucy’s campaign team out with us and working hard to reclaim the seat for the Lib Dems.
Dick Newby, our Chief Whip, called for 1,000 visits to be made before the election. After many months of hard campaigning this was our 1,000th.
On my visit we got a chance to discuss what can be done to help local dairy farmers, supporting renewable energy & rural services and, as the party’s spokesperson on DEFRA matters in the Lords, I got a chance to highlight all the things the Liberal Democrats have been doing over the last 5 years.
The visit gave me an opportunity to talk to local Councillors Anna Toon and Polly Andrews who were keen to hear how local retailers can support local environmental charities and groups as a result of the 5p levy on plastic bags, due to come in this Autumn, which Liberal Democrats have championed in Government.
It was great too to meet newly selected PPC Jeanie Falconer, from the adjacent constituency of North Herefordshire and talk about our evidence based approach to tackling bovine TB and the pilot badger culls.
I also got a chance to visit the local RSPCA branch with Lucy, after Duncan Starling, the local RSPCA chairman and LD campaigner had invited me, as a Vice-President of the organisation. It was fantastic to talk to the local volunteers who are rescuing and rehoming local animals and raising funds through their shop for the vital ‘4th emergency service’ that the RSPCA is. Having had the Control of Horses Bill safely complete its passage through the House of Lords the day before it was good to talk about how Parliament and local action together can help voiceless animals.
Later on in the evening I joined Lucy, Jeanie and the Herefordshire team at spring conference in Liverpool at a reception they’d organised to campaign for fairer funding for rural areas. With some of the best refreshment the county offers (Jeanie runs a vineyard) it was a happy ending to a day spent with some of our indefatigable campaigners!
But there is no rest for the wicked and Dick has now called for a new target, 50,000 doors knocked by election days. Something that our team of 100+ Lords should be able to achieve (with a few cups of tea and some elbow grease). If you want to get a Peer to help out in your campaign, then contact our visit organiser Louise Furness (firstname.lastname@example.org).
So many of the ways in which women and girls around the world must live their lives are simply taken for granted, never given a second thought.
We all know that domestic tasks fall disproportionately on women. That is as true in the UK as it is in a rural African village or a Darfuri refugee camp.
We also know that round the world there is energy poverty – people do not have the basic energy needs for their daily lives. But do we realise how this disproportionately affects women and girls?
In this crucial year, when the international community will agree a new set of Sustainable Development Goals and a climate deal will be reached in Paris, maybe we should think harder.
An estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, and 2.8 billion rely on solid fuels for cooking and heating. And it is girls and women who bear the brunt of this energy poverty.
I wrote about prospects for a minority government if no party gets an overall majority at the General Election, and some of the things that might need to change at Westminster if it’s to work. Moves away from its majoritarian and adversarial culture to one based much more on negotiation and mediation, compromises and trade-offs, and an acceptance of a more dominant role for Parliament as against the government. But will it last?
Traditionally the Prime Minister asked the Sovereign for a dissolution. In the modern era such requests were always granted. Sometimes the government had lost the confidence of the Commons (1924 and 1979), run out of steam (1951), or politics had been turned upside down and the new arrangements needed popular endorsement (1931).
But in most cases in the past 100 years the decision was in the hands of a PM who was looking to call the election at the best time for their party, as when Harold Wilson in 1966 and 1974 went to the country for a bigger majority. That is no longer the case. The date of the election on 7th May was set down in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA) and, so long as that Act remains in force, all future elections will take place on the first Thursday in May in the fifth year after the last election – subject only to two special circumstances that are in the hands of the House of Commons.
The first is that MPs vote for an “early parliamentary general election” by a special two-thirds majority of the whole membership – 434 members or more. The second is a vote of no confidence in the government. If that happens there is a breathing space of 14 days in which an alternative government can seek the confidence of the House – if that occurs, the early election is off.
The question is this: if the numbers in the Commons are anything like I used as a basis for my previous piece (Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all Northern Irish 17) what is the likelihood of the Commons voting for an early election?