Change only comes when women are in leadership roles – Sandip Verma

Baroness Sandip Verma, Member of the House of Lords – UK

Former Minister of International Development until 2016

Remarks at IWD conference on “Women Force for Change, Iran Uprising and Women’s Role”

Paris – February 17, 2018

Madam Rajavi, brothers and sisters,

It is always fantastic to come and support this wonderful event simply because it makes us all reflect on the great things that women, girls can do.

Social change has always come when women have stepped up.

Social change only comes when women step up.

Across the world, today, we are seeing a shift, a shift in attitude. And as what Ranjana said, social media is playing a key part in how we change attitudes.

But the women whether they are in Iran or anywhere else and they are suppressed, suppression, violation is suppression and violation.

And Dr. Hoda, you said mothers should be strong for their daughters. Fathers should be strong for their daughters. Fathers, brothers, husbands should be strong for the women of Iran.

If you are going to protest, if you are going to put your head above the parapet, you should know that people standing with you believe in what you are fighting for.

There is no place on Earth where violation can be acceptable. There are no people on earth who should be violators.

So, I call on the international community. I call on parliamentarians across the world. There are plenty of representatives in this room, today.

Let us ask our governments. Let’s ask them what they are going to do to challenge what is happening in Iran. Let them put the questions of what abuse of human rights means to them. Is it different to the abuse of human rights in other countries?

Because to me human rights abuse is the same in any country. The freedoms to be able to express yourselves should be the right of every individual that is on this planet.

So Madam Rajavi, I think we as parliamentarians, we as people who are in the political space, have a duty not just to the people in this country, in this room today, but to those people who are looking to us for speaking out, standing up and supporting the women and those men and boys that are standing with those women in Iran, today. Because this is a fight not just for a small group. This is a fight for people who should have their human rights respected.

I know that I come from a country that is undergoing huge political change at this moment in time. But it’s also right that those politicians who have engagement with governments across the world should also be asking the questions that when we are engaging with you what is happening to political prisoners? What is happening to protesters? Why are girls and women having teargas thrown amongst them? Why are fathers and brothers suddenly disappearing? Where are those people? What is happening to them?

These are political questions that politicians need to be asking.

And because it’s International Women’s Day and we need to remember that if we want to bring change, we need to have politicians who understand what human rights are.

So, when you are in your countries electing people, when you are selecting people to represent you, they need to be asked the question, how do you support people that are being abused in other countries? Because if you want my vote you need to stand up and say that you will support those people who are oppressed, suppressed and under the dictatorships of unelecteds, or those that are elected with supreme power that do not take any notice of the rights of others.

It is International Women’s Day.

Social economic change will only come when women are in leadership roles, when women are policy makers, when women are like you Madam Rajavi, when they stand up and are taken notice of.

Let us not have one Madam Rajavi. Let us have millions of Madam Rajavis because without lots and lots of voices, unfortunately, suppression, oppression will continue.

So, it is a duty on us to challenge the political space wherever we are.

We are all free to express our voices. Let us not keep quiet just because those voices are thousands of miles away from here. The women, the girls, the free men and women of those countries, like Iran, expect us to stand up. They expect us to speak out and they expect us to lead from here, from the countries we are situated in to stand up with them in the countries that they stand in.

So, I will say to you, Madam Rajavi, this hall is full of people who believe in you.

Let us find many, many more like you, so that this world becomes a place that is free of oppression, suppression and hate.

Thank you very much.