Minister Penny Mordaunt was choked up with emotion as she called on female MPs from across the globe to “finish the job” the suffragettes started 100 years ago.
The House of Commons hosted a landmark ‘Women MPs of the World’ event on Thursday, with 100 female parliamentarians from as far afield as Venezuela, New Zealand and Nigeria meeting to celebrate the centenary year of women securing the right to vote.
On a day when history weighed heavy, International Development Secretary Mordaunt asked those gathered to look up at a ventilation shaft through which women would once listen to proceedings they could not take part in.
She said: “Often they would hear men voicing the widely held concerns that if women were given the vote it would be the end of everything, the downfall of the family, society, nation.”
In the wake of a slew of sexual harassment and bullying allegations made by parliamentary staff, however, Mordaunt acknowledged Westminster was “still a hostile environment for some women who work within its walls”.
She paid tribute to the women who could not be there because they had been held captive or killed, picking out Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far-right activist in 2016, and British embassy worker Becky Dykes, who was killed in Beirut last year.
Mordaunt, who is also minister for women and equalities, called on those present to tackle global gender disparities, which includes 25 million backstreet abortions-a-year, how 200 million girls and women who have undergone female genital mutilation and the 63 million girls not in school.