Women's charities welcome UK's first ambassador for gender equality

by Anna Pujol-Mazzini | @annapmzn | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 17:30 GMT

Students celebrate after receiving their exam results at Winstanley College in Wigan, Britain in this 2015 archive photo. REUTERS/Andrew Yates

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"When girls are deprived of an education they become vulnerable and powerless"

By Anna Pujol-Mazzini

LONDON, Feb 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain has appointed the country's first ambassador for gender equality, joining a growing band of countries globally to create such a role, in a move welcomed by women's charities.

Joanna Roper, one of the country's most senior diplomats, will be in charge of delivering "a foreign policy that consciously and consistently delivers for women and girls", a foreign office spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Roper has held various positions within Britain's foreign office since 2001, including postings in Tokyo and Islamabad.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced the appointment ahead of International Women's Day on March 8 as part of a larger push internationally to advance the education of women and girls.

"Allowing girls into the classroom is both profoundly right in itself and the single most powerful spur to development and progress," Johnson wrote in an editorial in London's Evening Standard newspaper.

"When girls are deprived of an education they become vulnerable and powerless — easy prey for those who would force them into work or early marriage."

Roper, who is also responsible for the foreign office's women's association, will promote gender equality at country and international level.

About six other countries have appointed ambassadors for gender equality, including the United States, Australia, the Seychelles, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Their aim is to ensure issues impacting women and girls are put centre stage ranging from education to economic empowerment, to promoting women's leadership and eliminating violence against women and girls.

Women's rights charities in Britain welcomed the appointment.

"Almost every area of foreign policy and diplomatic activity requires examination of its impact on women and girls in other countries," Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We hope this appointment will encourage other countries to do the same and will lead to higher-profile conversations about the impact of foreign policy decision-making on women and girls."

(Reporting by Anna Pujol-Mazzini @annapmzn, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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