The Stroud MP's weekly column.

Last Sunday was the UN International Day of the Girl and I had the pleasure of hosting a Zoom Q&A session with Nimco Ali MBE, who is the co-founder of The Five Foundation, and pupils from local schools.

I was determined to mark this important day even though we are battling with the pandemic because it’s vital we stress the importance of ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), violence against women and girls and ensure all girls gain an education, not as privilege, but as a right.

Many thanks to Nimco and the students from Archway, Marling, Stroud High and Cirencester College for taking part. The questions were really interesting and ranged from how to raise awareness of FGM and how many women were living with the effects of it in the South West, to how Five Foundation tries to change cultural attitudes to the practice. One question was from a 17-year-old boy asking how he and his friends could help end oppression towards women.

I was also pleased to see the Prime Minister give support to the day. He concentrated on the fact there is a real risk of a lost generation of girls never returning to school because of the pandemic. He urged global action to stand up for every girl’s right to 12 years of quality education.

Other events took place around the world and I particularly enjoyed 16-year-old Aava Murto ceremonially becoming Finnish Prime Minister for one day for the “Girls Takeover” as part of the day.

However, we have some way to go. Around 130 million girls around the world do not have access to education. Many others are forced to marry as children and never receive the same rights and opportunities as boys as they grow up and become women.

Even worse, violence against women and girls is a global epidemic. An estimated 243 million women and girls across the world have recently been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. This is a shocking and unacceptable statistic.

The good news is we are making progress and the International Day of the Girl is just part of a global drive to end gender inequality and violence towards women and children. There is hope for the future and inspirational women, like Nimco, and pupils in Stroud are part of that hope for a project we must all ensure is successful in every part of the world