My weekly round up of work in the European Parliament, the UK and beyond!
Last week was very busy both in the European Parliament, back in the constituency and elsewhere.
I started the week by visiting the refugees in Calais and Dunkirk. It was my second visit to both camps in less than 2 months and it doesn't get any easier. However, huge credit must be given to the amazing NGOs, charities, aid organisations and compassionate individuals (most of whom are British) who are giving their time and resources in the most appalling conditions. Last week, being half-term, many teachers and educators were on site giving free English lessons as part of a Trade Union solidarity action. Whilst I was there, the refugees were being threatened with eviction as the camp is due to be bulldozed. Thankfully, this has been postponed whilst the authorities get their act together to provide shelter for the 7,000 human beings that have found themselves living in this putrid environment after fleeing war and persecution. To keep updated with what I'm doing to help the refugee crisis, have a look here.
In the Parliament, it was Committee Week so there were lots of meetings for my committees on Culture & Education, Women's Rights & Gender Equality, and Regional Development. It's been a busy week for gender equality! My gender mainstreaming report, which I've lead on for the Socialist & Democratic group, was adopted. Gender mainstreaming is one of the key innovations of the European Union, and it means looking into all policy-areas from a gender perspective to ensure gender equality. The Report will now go on to be voted on in Plenary in March, on international women's day.
In the meantime, I have been doing some gender mainstreaming on anti-poverty policy, especially on the gender aspects of poverty and household costs, which disproportionately affect more women than men!
This week I was pleased to host Robi Damelin and Mazen Faraj, Israeli and Palestinian representatives from the Parents’ Circle, an NGO made up of more than 600 bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families all of whom have lost a loved one in the conflict and have chosen a path of reconciliation rather than revenge. We will be hosting a series of events in the European Parliament in June with the Parents' Circle to promote peace and reconciliation in Israel and Palestine - I'll keep you updated! Have a watch of this video to find out more.
I also spoke at 3 events in Brussels last week. The first event, with World Vision, was on the importance of nutrition in the developing world. Then, hosted by the European Centre For Democracy and Human Rights, I then spoke on the 2011 pro-democratic uprising in Bahrain. Unfortunately, Bahrain are still committing human rights abuses to pro-democracy campaigners. My team and I are doing all we can to campaign against this, read more here. The final Brussels event was a workshop on civil society dialogue and participatory democracy with the Civic Forum. It's very important that politicians engage with citizens to help inform their policy work and this is exactly what I outlined in my most recent report.
I also welcomed a young constituent from Workington in Cumbria who is in his final year at high school, to come and shadow my office. I regularly accept young people to come and shadow me in the European Parliament, so if you're interested don't hesitate to email! Here's Matthew's account of his experience. Matthew was unsure about the EU at first, but coming to the European Parliament and getting a feel for what MEPs do completely changed his mind. Now that an EU referendum date has been confirmed, I will do my utmost to reverse the falsely negative perceptions of the EU!! So, it was brilliant that we also welcomed Jeremy Corbyn in Brussels last week as he put his full weight behind Britain staying in the EU. The Shadow Minister for Europe, Pat Glass MP, was also in Brussels. She was someone who encouraged me to get into politics!
Back in the constituency I was pleased to visit Bury where the European Network of Cultural Centres conference was being hosted by Bury Arts Museum with a world class gathering of artists and cultural producers discussing best practices around culture as a dynamic tool for urban resilience. Many congratulations are due to Bury Council for putting arts and cultural at the heart of its development strategy.
I also enjoyed listening to Bury South MP Ivan Lewis lay out the challenges and opportunities presented by the government's devolution programme for Greater Manchester. Ivan is putting himself forward as a mayoral candidate so it will be interesting to watch this space.
On Friday I was a guest speaker at the University of Cumbria's Law Society annual conference where I gave an informed and evidenced case for remaining in the EU, building on a speech I gave to NW Lancashire Chamber of Commerce last September.
Saturday morning saw me join forces with trade unionists, students, teachers, youth and community workers, artists, musicians, sports groups, business leaders, members of faith communities, the Race Equality Council, local councillors and many other folk in Preston town centre to stand in solidarity against the racist, Islamaphobic EDL who are increasingly spreading their message of hate and division in our community. Well done to the organisers and the police for managing this in a safe and sensitive way. You can read more here.
My final engagement of the week was a meeting with NW UNISON members where, together with fellow Labour MEP Afzal Khan, I answered questions about the up and coming EU Referendum, explaining in particular about my crucial work on human rights and children's safety as well as my main committee work.
Have a great week,