Critics deem funding for UK's gender equality plan as 'insufficient' despite launch

March 9,2023 : The UK government has launched a new global strategy to promote gender equality and support sexual and reproductive health programmes and women’s rights groups around the world. The strategy was announced by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on International Women’s Day. The FCDO stated that the strategy will put more focus on gender equality in its work, as it recognizes that the world faces threats to “hard-won gains” in advancing gender equality due to climate change, conflict and some governments’ policies.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly emphasized that advancing gender equality is not only the right thing to do, but it is also fundamental to healthy democracies, as it brings freedom, prosperity, and security. However, the announcement came as the International Development Committee (IDC) launched a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of UK aid cuts on women and girls in low-income countries. The FCDO had confirmed that £4bn would be cut from the aid budget in 2021, which the IDC claims has significantly affected the FCDO’s work with women and girls.
As part of the new strategy, the government has pledged £200m to support women’s sexual health programmes and £38m to support women’s rights organisations and grassroots movements. The funding for women’s rights organisations and movements will mostly be distributed through the Equality Fund, which supports feminist movements. However, some experts claim that the amount is not enough without a return to the UK spending 0.7% of its national income on aid.
The FCDO is also being urged to join up its strategy on women and girls with other challenges facing areas receiving aid, such as poverty, climate change, war, migration and education. According to Manali Desai, the head of Cambridge University’s sociology department, women and girls are affected in very specific ways by these events.
Bethan Cobley, the director of advocacy and partnerships at MSI Reproductive Choices, said that the new strategy was an important first step, but adequate and sustained resourcing and implementation is crucial through FCDO’s programme work and global influence. The UN Secretary-General, in a general assembly speech, stated that gender equality is growing more distant, and gender equality is still “300 years away.”