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From free exchange to gender equality

For a country to thrive, everyone must have equal opportunity to achieve their own ambitions. That is why this government is working to champion women’s economic empowerment, both in the UK and across the globe
March 3, 2021

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“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” These are the words of activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt whilst travelling home from school. Her crime? Fighting for female education. Last year she graduated from the University of Oxford, a moment of hope for women and girls around the world. We can learn from Malala’s words, now and in the years to come, as we make the most of opportunities that come our way. For a country to truly thrive, it needs to seek out and harness the talents of all its people.

Britain has taken to the world stage as an independent trading nation, in the midst of a pandemic likely to change the way we live and work forever. This change creates a chance for a fresh start. This year, the UK will be the president of the G7, will host the COP26 climate summit and will co-lead on the global Generation Equality Action Forum on gender-based violence—signalling a new chapter in which, together, we have full creative freedom. Equality of opportunity for men and women must remain central to our story.

International trade and investment are engines of economic growth for developing and developed countries. Women in the workplace can be a great catalyst. While men and women, not government, must make their own choices on the lives they lead, if women opened businesses at the same rate as men we could add £250bn to the British economy by 2030, through new innovation, new exports and new jobs. Yet only one in three British entrepreneurs is female. 

That’s why the trade secretary, Liz Truss, and I have been working hard to champion equality of opportunity, both at home and across the globe. This includes striking new free trade agreements that will remove barriers, improve the lives of families and ensure that women have the same opportunities as men. We must make sure that women can access the benefits of trade and achieve their own ambitions. The UK-Japan trade deal delivers on this through the specific chapter on trade and women’s economic empowerment, which seeks to help female entrepreneurs in both nations. This aim will be key to our ongoing negotiations with the US, Australia, New Zealand, and in particular Canada, where it will be intrinsic to the new advanced deal we will negotiate.

“The UK-Japan trade deal has a specific chapter on women’s empowerment”

We have a responsibility to help the world’s poorest as well. The fortunes of so many countries depend on tapping the full potential of their people. We have committed to getting 40m more girls in school in low- and middle-income countries by 2025. We are also supporting girls’ education around the world through programmes like the Girls’ Education Challenge: the world’s largest fund focused on the issue. Our G7 presidency this year will bring a global focus to girls’ education, channelling investment and action to where it is needed most. This year Britain and Kenya will co-host the financing summit for the Global Partnership for Education, urging world leaders to invest in getting children into school as we build back better from coronavirus.

As the father of two daughters, I want to make sure that they live better lives tomorrow than they do today. Their futures should be decided by them, based on their own individual talents, passions and priorities. We all want fantastic futures, underpinned by great jobs and support for families. The fight for equality of opportunity doesn’t sit just with women and girls—it sits with us all.