Cleverly to visit mother’s Sierra Leone home town on International Women’s Day

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The Foreign Secretary will use a trip to his mother’s home town in Sierra Leone on International Women’s Day to announce his department’s updated approach to helping women and girls globally.

James Cleverly will travel to Bo in the West African country, where he will visit a school and a hospital to see how UK-funded projects are offering targeted assistance to women and girls.

The senior Conservative has previously described himself as the first British MP from a Sierra Leonian background and spoken of being “proud” of his heritage.

His mother moved from Sierra Leone to south-east London in the 1960s, working in Lewisham Hospital as a midwife and marrying Mr Cleverly’s British father.

Officials said those threats come from climate change, humanitarian crises, conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, and recent attempts to roll back women’s rights, including in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan.

Mr Cleverly said: “Advancing gender equality and challenging discrimination is obviously the right thing to do, but it also brings freedom, boosts prosperity and trade, and strengthens security – it is the fundamental building block of all healthy democracies.

“Our investment to date has improved lives around the world, with more girls in school, fewer forced into early marriage and more women in top political and leadership roles.

“But these hard-won gains are now under increasing threat.

“We’re ramping up our work to tackle the inequalities which remain, at every opportunity.”

While at a hospital in Bo, Mr Cleverly will see how UK support is improving blood banks and equipment, increasing electricity access and saving the lives of pregnant women.

At the school, he will hear about girls’ aspirations for the future, with the UK supporting students there to talk about preventing violence.

The freshly announced strategy, according to the FCDO, will put a continued focus on educating girls, empowering women and girls, championing their health and rights, and ending gender-based violence.

The department said the strategy will commit to at least 80% of its bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) programmes targeting gender equality as a policy objective by 2030.

During the trip, the Foreign Secretary will also announce a new emphasis on supporting grassroots women’s rights organisations, and funding for a sexual and reproductive health and rights programme that will support an estimated 10 million women.

The FCDO said the work will focus on sub-Saharan Africa, which has some of the highest rates of child marriage and maternal mortality in the world.

The programme is expected to receive up to £200 million and is predicted to prevent up to 30,600 maternal deaths, 3.4 million unsafe abortions and 9.5 million unintended pregnancies, according to officials.

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