This year's International Women's Day challenge "“Press for Progress” is a noble cause to drive gender equality forward and utilise the momentum of mass media coverage to push for change globally, in all countries, at all levels and within all spheres of life," Lord Loomba stated. Speaking during the debate in the House of Lords on pressing for progress on inequality Lord Loomba urged the Government to "stop paying lip service," by asking what steps are the Government taking to "do deeds, to press for progress for gender equality here and abroad?"
Citing a report by the UN last year: “gender inequality persists worldwide, depriving women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities,” Lord Loomba noted the work done over the years in attempting to improve life for women and girls. "[W]e have been talking about gender inequality, the pay gap, domestic violence, human trafficking, modern-day slavery and sexual abuse against women and girls in areas of conflict by the powerful against the powerless," he said; and yet "[t]hese are all uncivilised and barbaric practices that we are [still] grappling with even in the 21st century."
Lord Loomba believes that whilst these situations persist progress on the Sustainable Development Goals is hindered. Noting that our Government is firmly committed to delivering the SDGs both home and abroad Lord Loomba stated: "[t]o ensure that we deliver on SDGs, there is a need for more than just DfID covering these points: there needs to be some coming together between the various organs of government to facilitate a cohesive process that keeps the commitment on track both at home and abroad." A consolidated approach, he thought, was especially needed for Goal 5 which aims to: "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls."
Goal 5, Lord Loomba pointed out, has nine target areas. "One area of huge concern which affects many women, girls and widows," he said, as he declared an interest as founder and chairman of the Loomba Foundation, "is violence against women and girls, including widows." This area is covered by a target that aims to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.”
Whilst the target to reduce poverty has been particularly successful "the fight continues to educate and empower women and girls," and "the issue of widowhood remains underrepresented and unaddressed," Lord Loomba argued. "Millions of widows suffer social marginalisation, higher susceptibility to disease, the loss of their livelihood or their children and the threat of death, to name a few of the experiences that women and girls across the world must endure as a result of a tragic event over which they have no control—the death of their husbands. Sadly, widows are victims of double discrimination: they are women and they are widows."
Noting that [t]hese grave injustices are most prominent in the developing world," Lord Loomba stated that these issues are "thus becoming a critical absence in the development agenda." "These women and girls," he said, "have been excluded not only from their own families and societies but from the agendas of development experts and practitioners across the world that devotes their careers to ensuring that no one is left behind."
"There needs to be a step change in attitudes," Lord Loomba said. "[W]e need to do more at an earlier stage," to improve things such as through education for boys. "It is really and truly only by bringing the other half of the population on board that we will make real progress, " he declared.
Pointing out the inequality of female participation in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the slow progress for women generally in political life Lord Loomba stated: "[i]f we are to truly make progress, we need to set an example—if we cannot do it ourselves, how can we ask others to do it?" "We really must get our own house in order first," he said, "and ensure that there is gender equality here to improve matters for women and for their complete participation in the democratic process."