Author Archives: Sophie Bridger

Opinion: Human rights and all that jazz

This weekend thousands of Liberal Democrat activists will arrive in Glasgow for the Federal Conference. They’ll debate the major political issues of the day; hold the government to account for its failings and attend the odd fringe meeting. After all, free political discussion and association is a vital element of any modern democracy. But one exhibitor at conference doesn’t agree. The European Azerbaijan Society will be holding  their traditional jazz evening on Sunday, yet this organisation backs the Azerbaijani government that arrests, tortures and jails political activists and human rights campaigners. In Glasgow, activists go to conference. In Azerbaijan, they go to prison.

The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) describes itself as an independent organisation dedicated to forging relationships between Azerbaijan and Europe. In fact, it has has troubling links with the highest echelons of the Azerbaijani dictatorship. Its director, Tale Heydarov, is the son of one of Azerbaijan’s richest and most powerful men (Emergencies Minister Kamaladdin Heydarov). A leaked US diplomatic cable spoke acknowledges that far from being independent,  ‘ talking points very much reflect the goals and objectives of the GOAJ .

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Opinion: Raise your hand on Malala Day

Just under a year ago, I wrote a piece about the shooting of a girl who dared to demand her right an education. Today, that girl will address the UN and meet Ban Ki Moon to discuss access to education worldwide. Today is Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday.

Education is a right that we often take for granted in the UK. But millions of children worldwide miss out on an education. Where parents cannot afford to send their children to school, cannot afford for their children not to work, or even when places are provided but they cannot provide the uniform or materials, those children will never have the opportunity to change their lives. They will live and die in poverty.

Girls are more likely to miss out on education than boys. When finances are tight, many families will choose to educate sons but not daughters; sons will go on to work, but if daughters are expected to raise a family and stay at home then educating them is seen as pointless. Often, raising children is something done at school age– in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 5 girls is married before the age of 18. Once they are married, they will not return to school as this video shows.

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Opinion: we must act to make sure all girls have access to education

Yesterday, in the Swat region of Pakistan, a 14 year old girl was shot. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and she was walking home from school with her friend when she was shot in the side of the head. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting.

The question on all our minds is ‘Why would anyone try and kill a 14 year old girl?’.

Because Malala Yousafzai stood up for something that scares and horrifies the Taliban – she dared to speak out for girls’ right to an education.

Malala was 11 years old when she started writing about life under the …

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Opinion: Abortion reform – handing power back to women

Despite being in the 21st century, we appear to value the approval of medical professionals, and their control over women’s bodies, more than we do women’s autonomy.

Last week it came to light in a Telegraph report that some abortion clinics – up to one in five – were performing abortions illegally. Doctors were pre-signing forms to permit abortions before they had seen the patient’s medical information. Why are so many good doctors not following the law?

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, termination of pregnancy is legal up to 24 weeks, as long as two doctors approve it. Not one, two.  …

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Opinion: Must do better – Why benefit reforms are in need of reform

Over the last week, more and more articles have emerged regarding disability benefit (Employment Support Allowance) and Work Capability Assessments. I say articles – they read like horror stories. People with degenerative conditions being told to get themselves to the Jobcentre. People being asked to come to assessments in rooms that aren’t accessible to the disabled. It makes the blood run cold.

We have failed to show the public that this is not a cost-cutting exercise. They feel that this is purely a convenient way to squeeze a little more out of those already worst affected. Claimants are terrified that …

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Opinion: Civil Partnerships, a thoroughly modern union

Sophie Bridger is the President Elect of  Liberal Youth Scotland. LYS brought a motion on Equal Marriage to Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in 2010. It was passed and our manifesto launched on Tuesday has a commitment to open up marriage to same sex couples and civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. Sophie looks at the future for civil partnerships.

When the subject of gay marriage is approached, you’re hard pushed to find a Liberal who disagrees. The right to marriage, complete with religious ceremony, should be available to all. But when it comes to civil partnerships, I often find people are slightly …

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Opinion: Gentlemen! A little less bitching, please

For a party that prides itself on its stance on gender equality, we still have a lot of work to do. Sure, we campaign for greater and more flexible parental leave, and an end to unacknowledged airbrushing. We rightly refuse to acknowledge patronising all women shortlists, both in the party as a whole, and within Liberal Youth. We’ve certainly got a lot better at representation – a third of our target seat candidates in the last election were women. But women make up more than 50% of our population, and around 45% of our membership. A third is simply not …

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