Decision on UK aid unforgivable for women and girls

13 July 2021

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In response to the Government winning the vote on aid cuts, and aid spending being tied to a “double lock” of Government borrowing and spending, Frances Longley, Chief Executive of ActionAid UK says: 

“Today the Government has chosen to pull up the drawbridge and leave behind millions of the poorest women and girls around the world. This is unforgivable at a time when the pandemic has already rolled back women’s rights by a generation, and many women and girls have experienced a surge in violence.  

“Under the conditions laid out by the Treasury, the criteria for returning to the 0.7% aid target would only have been met once in the last 20 years. It could therefore be decades before the legal target is restored.  

“We do not have to choose between funding overseas aid and ‘looking after our own’ – we can, should and must do both. The 0.7% aid target allows for this flexibility; when the UK’s national income falls, so too does our aid contribution. An estimated 20 million women and girls will now be left behind over the next few years. That includes 700,000 girls who are set to miss out on an education – which will lead to higher rates of early marriage and domestic violence – and millions of women who will not be reached with humanitarian assistance.  

“ActionAid is already seeing cuts to vital programmes that support women and girls to leave violent situations, access services and build better lives. An ActionAid-supported project in Rwanda, which works to prevent violence against girls, lost all its UK aid funding in its final year. Without alternative funding, seven shelters for girls escaping violence at the hands of partners or family members would have had to be closed down for good, and hundreds of girls who have been abused would miss out on counselling.  

“These cuts, and the way they are being implemented, will have wide-ranging and long-standing impacts on the world’s poorest people, put lives at risk and threaten important and hard-won progress made towards gender equality. We do not believe this is what the UK stands for and we will have to live with this moral shame for generations to come.” 


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Notes to editors

ActionAid is an international charity that works with women and girls living in poverty. Our dedicated local staff are changing the world with women and girls. We are ending violence and fighting poverty so that all women, everywhere, can create the future they want.