Lord Raj Loomba,

On 30 June 2014, I initiated a debate at the House of Lords to ask what the UK Government is doing to raise awareness of International Widows Day. These debates – known as Questions for Short Debate (QSD) – allow members of the House of Lords to put questions to Her Majesty’s Government, so I used this opportunity to press the Government to make every effort to have widows' issues expressly included in the UN’s post Millennium Development goals.

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The debate was interesting and ended with Baroness Northover, a Minister at the Department for International Development (DfID) and its spokesperson in the Lords, making some important commitments in her closing remarks.

DfID's ‘A New Strategic Vision for Girls and Women’ identifies economic empowerment as one of the four key pillars for action. This is important to help women break the cycle of poverty so they can be self-sufficient.

DfiD is seeking to make the 2015 Development Framework include ‘gender equality’ as a standalone goal. This will help to address some of the issues that widows face. The targets will include eliminating violence against women and girls; promoting women’s economic empowerment; fostering girls’ and women’s leadership and participation; ensuring universal sexual and reproductive health and rights; and improving girls’ education.

The government is active in other areas to help spread awareness around women’s issues such as the ‘Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict’ which took place in June 2014. In July the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Home Secretary will host with UNICEF a ‘Girl Summit’ to bring an end within a generation to child marriage, early marriage, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.