Sunday, 16 March 2008

From the local to the global

Tomorrow is going to be a hectic day. I have, at long last, managed to get a Home Office Minister down to Bristol to meet with local residents and others to talk about the problem of on-street prostitution in parts of Eastville and Easton. Unfortunately it's a day time meeting, but that's when Ministers do such things, so we had to go along with it. As well as local residents and councillors, we've got the police coming, as well as agencies such as the Safer Bristol Partnership and One2Five (which provides support for sex workers). The event will start with a few brief presentations, including hearing from local residents about the problems they've encountered (sex litter, being propositioned or threatened by women/ punters, having to explain to their children what's going on outside their school, etc). And then we'll tell the Minister what, if anything, the Government could be doing to help us tackle the problem.

After that I might just manage to get to London in time for the weekly DFID ministerial team meeting. Then a few hours in the Westminster office, and then I'll be heading to Heathrow for a flight to Delhi.

The trip to India has been organised by World Vision as part of the Global Campaign for Education - which campaigns for free, compulsory education for all. At the moment 72 million children don't have this right. I'll be accompanied on the trip by Laura and Alice, two pupils from Bristol Brunel Academy who will be reporting back to their fellow pupils on their return. They've already come down to Parliament for the day, where they met the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development, and I'm sure it's going to be the trip of a lifetime for them.

In India we'll be visiting an area called Mewat, a few hours from Delhi, populated mostly by Meo Muslims. The literacy rates here, particularly among women, are appalling low, at around the 2% mark. (For men it's about 27-33%, which is still below the national average). We're going to be looking at the barriers - cultural, social and economic - preventing girls from accessing education, and also meeting policy-makers and NGOs who can do something about it.

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