Britain is committed to building a world where women and girls can realise their true potential, and where their contributions towards peace, stability and economic development are valued and encouraged.
Around the world, the British taxpayer has helped more than five million girls go to school, more than five million women give birth safely, and 10 million women gain access to modern methods of family planning, in the past five years alone.
Today on International Women’s Day, I am proud to celebrate these achievements.
As international development secretary, I have seen for myself how Britain is changing the lives of some of the poorest and most marginalised women in the world.
I recently visited Afghanistan where the position of women under the Taleban was one of the worst in the world.
Not a single girl could attend school or enjoy the opportunity to learn or widen her view of the world, and those that tried risked violence and even death.
Today, thanks to the UK’s support, more than 300,000 Afghan girls can now attend school, many more women are working, and maternal healthcare is significantly improved.
Scottish based charity the Halo Trust is a vital part of this work and the UK’s contribution. They are helping to de-mine vast areas of land so local communities can safely grow food and build businesses and they are making sure women are at the heart of these efforts.
During my visit to Afghanistan I met inspirational female Halo workers who educate communities and children on the dangers of unexploded ordnance and monitor the impact that UK-supported mine clearance has on local people’s livelihoods.
There is still a very long way to go for girls and women in Afghanistan, but recent progress is the clearest possible rebuttal to the Taleban’s skewed world view.
So I would like to thank all the Scottish people, including the charities, staff and volunteers, who often work in dangerous environments to help us build a better future for girls and women around the world.
There’s no question that when it comes to tackling poverty and building a more secure and prosperous world for us all, women are a fundamental part of the solution. Women’s participation in education, health, politics and peace building is crucial for delivering real and lasting peace and stability in countries like Afghanistan.
The UK will continue to speak up and speak out for women and girls everywhere who are denied control over their bodies and futures.
The UK is hosting a major international summit on family planning this summer to secure renewed global commitment to family planning services, with a particular focus on the poorest and most vulnerable girls and women. We are also making sure women and girls are protected in humanitarian crises, while addressing the chronic need for education, jobs and better economic opportunities for girls and women in developing countries.
We are seeing huge progress for girls and women’s rights around the world but there is absolutely no room for complacency. Britain will keep working to give women the opportunities they deserve and to build a better, more prosperous world for us all.