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Time to put women’s safety at the heart of foreign policy

Swedish MP Laila Naraghi and former Special Advisor to Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Walstrom, widely regarded as the world’s greatest pioneer of a feminist foreign policy approach, was invited to address a Fabian Women’s Network event last month in London.

Laila Naraghi is a leading figure in Swedish politics and was instrumental in Sweden becoming the first country in the world to champion feminist foreign policy. Naraghi shared her experiences of how the concept of a feminist foreign policy was developed. It will come as no surprise that central to developing policies that unapologetically put the security and wellbeing of women and girls at the heart of politics is the representation of women in democratic political systems.

Naraghi told the audience that around the world 78% of seats in parliament are held by men. If you look beyond politics,  70% of agricultural land around the world is worked on by women – yet women own only 2% of the land. Around the world one in five women and girls will become survivors of rape.

Naraghi connected the dots between the global and political systems that lock women out of being seen, heard and valued. Instead these systems deliberately make women invisible and vulnerable to exploitation. In order to develop a feminist foreign policy, women must be seen and heard and in the room and at the decision-making table, participating in politics on an equal footing with men.

Naraghi spoke clearly about feminist foreign policy putting human rights, representation and resources on the table as the three essential criteria governments around the world must follow if they want to provide more than lip service to protecting and safeguarding women and girls’ rights. Women’s rights defenders and women’s rights groups around the world are amongst the most chronically under-resourced and under-invested. Yet the work they do saves lives daily.

Laila Naraghi championed the importance of civil society around the world who more often than not step in and step up to play play the role the state should play to safeguard women, especially in conflict-torn regions where women and girls are being targeted and forced in to sexual slavery and abuse.

Feminist foreign policy is gathering traction around the world as the traditional foreign policy toolkit becomes increasingly more outdated. New forms of conflict demand innovative responses and more global leaders are beginning to apply a gender lens to their foreign policy strategies in the hopes of empowering women and thus advancing peace and prosperity.

About author

This piece was written by Shaista Aziz, a freelance journalist and a Fabian Women’s Network Mentee from the 2017 mentoring cohort.

Shaista will be a panellist at the WOW Festival ‘Whose Afraid of a Feminist Foreign Policy? Debate’ at the Southbank Centre, London on March 10th.

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