Margot James highlights the need for a significant part of our aid budget in Afghanistan to be designed to empower women and asks if the International Development Committee believes the relevant NGOs on the ground have the capability to deliver on some of the DFID programmes in the future?
Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend’s Committee on making the central point that, unless a significant part of our aid budget is devoted to projects designed to empower women, women will lag behind and the whole development effort will suffer. What assessment did the Committee make on its visit of the capacity of the NGOs that represent women, such as Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan? How strong is the women’s NGO sector’s capability to deliver on some of the DFID programmes in the future?
Sir Malcolm Bruce: A number of NGOs have a strong commitment, and there are some powerful female voices in Afghan society that speak out for women. However, there is real fear that they will be pushed back after 2014, and they need continued support. There is also a recognition that international NGOs are sometimes compromised because they are seen to be interfering in a traditional culture. So it is important that we develop civil society in Afghanistan, and support those women in Afghanistan who can fight for themselves and ensure that they know that they have extra support outside. I take the view that not only in Afghanistan but across the world the key to development—the single most important thing—is the development of women’s rights. That is the most transformational thing that we can do.