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Thursday, 29 March 2018

From the 26 March 2018 until 2 April 2018 is World Autism Awareness Week. Over 99% of people have heard of autism, but only 16% of autistic people feel the public understand them. 

This week community campaigners and parliamentarians raised awareness by taking small actions to make a difference to help autistic people. Through fundraising, lobbying and participating in night walks. 

Dame Cheryl Gillan, chair of the all-party group on autism, opened the debate this week in Parliament, and informed MPs that in each constituency in the Commons, there are approximately 1,000 people who will have autism. The chair of the APPG on Autism stated, that 79% of autistic people and 70% of families with a member with autism feel socially isolated, and 28% of autistic people have been asked to leave a public space because of issues associated with the condition. 

Too Much Information (TMI) is a campaign delivered by The National Autistic Society to increase public understanding of the five core features of autism and to give people an understanding of what actions they can take to help autistic people. 

The campaign challenges the myths, misconceptions and stereotypes. TMI helps the public to understand autism, the person, and the change they can make.

Those five core features of autism are:
  • anxiety in social situations
  • anxiety with unexpected changes
  • sensory overload
  • meltdowns
  • processing time
For further details for volunteers who wish to learn more on the campaign, or get involved see link: http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/about/report.aspx

Monday, 19 February 2018

During this month, female activists are going the extra mile due to the celebrations marking the Representation of the People Act. 2018 marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed the first women, and all men, to vote for the first time. The Suffragettes achieved their goal of becoming part of the electorate. 

The 50:50 campaign asked all political parties to take note on their website with information and progress, “with over 50,000 signatories to the 50:50 petition agreeing that a gender balanced Parliament would be more representative and better for all.”

Researchers emphasised, “that women are half as likely than men to consider themselves potential candidates for elected office and that they need to be asked more than once before they will consider standing.” Cross party campaigns have increased particularly during the milestone with Vote 100. 

Celebrations of this milestone are being led by many campaigns who are also getting involved with Vote 100. Major exhibition, talks and tours, and events can also be found by following, #Vote100 on social media.

Starking reminder that womens’ hidden voices in the public and political sphere, when it comes to BAME women, there are even less. Diversity of women from all social and economic backgrounds are furthermore complex, identifying the support networks and political circles can be challenging for women not already exposed to the networks and platforms. How can we improve social mobility when BAME women are not in political influential positions or reflective at the heart of politics? 
There are many ambitous women, career driven out of the field of public life and politics who maybe seeking new challenges, later in life with credible leadership experiences. 

If you know some one who fits the criteria or has an interest to take a role in public and life, consider becoming an #AskHerToStand champion, to promote them and others, sign in the link, http://5050parliament.co.uk/askhertostand/

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

On the centenary of the passage of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave women the vote for the first time, women joined in the #Vote100 celebrations taking place across the country and in the House of Commons. UK PM Theresa May led the event. The year will commemorate the women who fought to achieve electoral equality with a long series of events and exhibitions.

During the celebrations, many recalled the suffrage movement. Current women serving MPs across all parties stood united in the mother of all parliaments. The celebrations are also encouraging more women to stand for public office. There are now 208 female MPs in the House of Commons, yet more needs to be done to make parliament truly representative of the communities it serves.

Campaigns across the political spectrum continues to train aspiring and future candidates to take the opportunity to seek public office. Government has also announced £5 million to help celebrate this milestone and to encourage more women to engage in our democracy from community groups. 

The funds can be applied for activities in the cities and towns with strong links to the campaign for women’s suffrage, and allow local communities to apply for money to run celebratory events on the historical achievements of the suffragettes and suffragists.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The West Midlands Conservative MEP Conference “Brexit and Beyond” attracted wide audiences, with over 250 delegates from across the region. The event was held in February 2018. Volunteers and party members had the opportunity to meet and greet speakers and participate in a number of interactive panel sessions. 
West Midlands Metro Mayor Andy Street spoke on the region’s prospects and industrial future post 2019. 

The audience had the opportunity to ask further questions and learn more on the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.

Rt Hon Saijd Javid MP Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government presented information on meeting the housing need and how to retain a building industry workforce post 2019. 

“Europe where next?was a panel and Q & A discussion led by Lord Callanan, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union and Dan Dalton MEP. Both shared updates on the current Brexit negotiations and outlined the challenges ahead. 
Conservative Party Chairman, Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP highlighted discussions on “Britain Today and Tomorrow” followed by an interactive session from members and volunteers. 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Delighted to learn more about the Send My Friend to School campaign by King Edward VII Girls, Sheffield at the Conservative Party conference. Young female ambassadors shared information on their campaign for global education. 

They highlighted, the campaign aims to raise awareness that world leaders have promised every child in the world a quality education and 263 million children were missing out on school, and many of those in school are not learning. 

World leaders have made a clear promise to ensure every child in the world gets a quality education by 2030. 

The young champion’s enthusiasm  and commitment were first class, collectively Send My Friend to School brings together thousands of children across the UK to speak up for the right to education. Details were shared from the website; https://www.sendmyfriend.org/

To learn more on the campaign, check the teachers resources pack. 

Well done to the champions on the day. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Balukhali, Cox's Bazar 
Recently, I visited Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to see first-hand the experience of the Rohingya refugee crisis as part of Project Shapla 2017, the Conservative Friends of Bangladesh social action project alongside a group of volunteers and three British MP’s. 

I saw alarming and distressing images, of the Rohingya survivors', both Muslim and Hindu’s with families of many young women and children. When you read on the recent atrocities, you cannot imagine the trauma, the horrific situation victims have faced until you experience the devastation and impact on their long journeys to settle in Bangladesh in one of the refugee camps. United Nations estimate the number of Rohingya's has topped over 500,000 since August 2017. According to one UN Chief’s, Myanmar treatment of Rohingya looks like 'textbook ethnic cleansing', a senior United Nations human rights official said. 

Balukhali, Cox's Bazar 
The river which separates Myanmar and Bangladesh is now a route for the Rohingya’s survival, and a gateway to life away from the Rakhine state as many Rohingya victims board small boats along the river. Some of the refugees also walk for days on foot to get to Bangladesh. During the trip to Kutupalong refugee camp, volunteers heard from charities, informing us on the current, harrowing situation. UNICEF estimated 60% of the refugees are children, and many victims arrive with nothing but the clothing they wear. They suffer from starvation, and require basic health needs, nutrition and medical care. Bangladesh and aid agencies are providing shelter and basic facilities. 

The Bangladeshi media have extensively covered the heroic intentions, pledges and support provided by the Bangladeshi Government to the current Rohingya crisis and the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in particular. The condemnation to the attacks taking place in Myanmar, and the plea for safe zones to be set up for the return of Rohingya’s back to Burma safely. 

Balukhali, Cox's Bazar 
Bangladesh announced it will work with the UN to build 14,000 new shelters, each housing six families. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated about 313,000 Rohingya had crossed into Bangladesh. Many new arrivals were on the move inside Bangladesh and could not be accounted for. I wanted to learn more on: the work of counter-trafficking and protection of vulnerable migrants, the work carried out to support women and young children, the undocumented Myanmar nationals living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and the developments to ensure provision of safe spaces for women and children, with disappointment I returned. I now learn there are services provided, I did not have the opportunity to hear of these shared stories and actions.  

Recently, the UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, said that the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh was believed to be well over 700,000 people. President Hamid has also made a plea on global support for repatriating Rohingya refugees. 

I hope the global responses to the humane injustices are persistently raised by the NGO’s, charities and the people of Bangladesh for the Rohingya survivors. If you wish to donate, please visit the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency main website and its aims, "is the global organisation dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people," full details noted below.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

On Wednesday 20th September 2017, I was taken to the outskirts of Cox's Bazar organised by BRAC, with a very small group of volunteers to understand how microfinance programme works for Bangladeshi women. 

During our journey, I met women who were delighted to share their stories. Jahanara was very proud to share her story on her achievements utilising one of the small micro finance loans provided by BRAC. The dhabi loan provided Jahanara the investment to build her home and she was keen to show her asset, the cow she bought too. 

The skills Jahanara developed were shared by Tanzina from BRAC. Jahanara explained what steps she had taken to secure her asset and improvements to her home.  
The improvements to Jahanara’s home alongside her asset was an outcome pleased to see. Jahanara developed business skills and self-confidence, it was rewarding to see her smile continuously.

I had the opportunity to talk to the other women on the benefits of having micro finance loans and the segments they had selected for themselves. 

Some of the Bangladeshi women in the group talked about their dry fish business expanding, and their vegetable stock. Tanzina, from BRAC outlined the Dabi products delivered via the ‘village organisations’ (VOs); a community lending and savings groups of 15-25 women, the financial training and women’s empowerment in the household. 

Jahanara and the rest of the Bangladeshi women made me feel very welcome. My only regret was not being able to spend more time with them. It was fantastic to see such engaged Bangladeshi women with independence. 

For further information on the work and developments of BRAC project, visit the link: http://www.brac.net/microfinance