Cleverly visits mother’s Sierra Leone home town on International Women's Day

New global programme will support an estimated 10 million women in sub-Saharan Africa

James Cleverly's mother (L). Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (R). Photo: Getty Images
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James Cleverly will visit his mother’s home town in Sierra Leone on International Women’s Day to announce a new strategy to help women and girls around the world.

The UK Foreign Secretary is set to visit Bo in the West African country, where he will attend a school and a hospital to see how UK-funded projects are offering targeted assistance to women and girls.

Mr Cleverly has previously described himself as the first British MP from a Sierra Leonean background and spoken of being proud of his heritage.

His mother moved from Sierra Leone to south-east London in the 1960s, working in Lewisham Hospital as a midwife and marrying Mr Cleverly’s British father.

The visit on Wednesday will see the cabinet minister unveil a strategy aimed at tackling increasing threats to gender equality, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said.

Officials said those threats come from climate change, humanitarian crises, conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, and recent attempts to roll back women’s rights in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan.

“Advancing gender equality and challenging discrimination is obviously the right thing to do, but it also brings freedom, boosts prosperity and trade, and strengthens security – it is the fundamental building block of all healthy democracies", Mr Cleverly said.

“Our investment to date has improved lives around the world, with more girls in school, fewer forced into early marriage and more women in top political and leadership roles.

“But these hard-won gains are now under increasing threat.

“We’re ramping up our work to tackle the inequalities which remain, at every opportunity.”

While at a hospital in Bo, Mr Cleverly will see how UK support is improving blood banks and equipment, increasing electricity access and saving the lives of pregnant women.

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The freshly-announced strategy, according to the FCDO, will put a continued focus on educating girls, empowering women and girls, championing their health and rights, and ending gender-based violence.

The department said the strategy will commit to at least 80 per cent of its bilateral Official Development Assistance programmes targeting gender equality as a policy objective by 2030.

During the trip, the Foreign Secretary will also announce a new emphasis on supporting grassroots women’s rights organisations, and funding for a sexual and reproductive health and rights programme that will support an estimated 10 million women.

The FCDO said the work will focus on sub-Saharan Africa, which has some of the highest rates of child marriage and maternal mortality in the world.

The programme is expected to receive up to £200 million in funding ($237 million) and is predicted to prevent up to 30,600 maternal deaths, 3.4 million unsafe abortions and 9.5 million unintended pregnancies, according to officials.

Updated: March 08, 2023, 5:00 AM