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I originally posted this (in a slightly amended form) on Reuters’ IWD live event.

Update: Hannah Wright posted a great piece with background on this issue earlier today.

Today the UK Government made a decision that could improve the lives of millions of women around the world:

The Prime Minister has announced that Baroness Kinnock will take on a new role leading the Government’s work to tackle violence against women overseas.

The importance of this decision should not be underestimated. As the Government itself notes, this “is the first time such a dedicated responsibility has existed.”

This represents a major success for ActionAid who have just launched a new report Destined to fail? How violence against women is undoing development. In the report ActionAid calls on the UK Government to take two key actions to address the global scandal of violence against women: put violence against women at the heart of its foreign policy and appoint a Minister to be responsible for global violence against women.

Baroness Kinnock’s new role will be particularly powerful because it works across the three government departments that can really make a difference on this agenda internationally: the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In the report, ActionAid outlines how violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights abuses in the world, undermining the rights of all women – old and young, across all countries, and during conflict and more peaceful times. Destined to fail? also shows how violence against women is a challenge to some of the most important global agendas of the day. Indeed, it poses a threat to all international development efforts: it stops girls from attending school; it fuels the spread of HIV and AIDS; and it prevents women from entering politics. We simply cannot end poverty and conflict while women do not have equal rights and are not valued as importantly as men in society.

Making violence against women a foreign policy objective in this way marks a welcome, significant and historic shift in the UK’s approach to violence against women internationally. A shift that the US has also been making with its International Violence Against Women Act and the creation of the Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues post within the Department of State. A shift that is fitting as it shows that the UK is serious about tackling global violence against women as a core part of its everyday work and not just on international women’s days.

ActionAid thinks there are three things that Baroness Kinnock can do to make sure this new approach works. She can develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle international violence against women. She can decide on the key indicators to use to track the Government’s progress. And she can make sure she has the resources to deliver on her ambitions.

On this 100th anniversary of International Women’s Days, let’s celebrate the important changes we can make to achieve equality for all women – today.