East Ham MP Stephen Timms has seen the success of Make Poverty History


- Credit: Archant

I spent February half term week in Bangladesh. With Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, and Sir Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, our trip was organised by Labour Friends of Bangladesh. I was struck by the contrast with my first visit 20 years ago.

Then, many children in Bangladesh weren’t in school. I vividly remember a boy aged about eight who was dressed literally in rags. Somebody told me he worked in the local hotel. Many children had to work to help their families survive. They had no chance of any proper education.

Today, almost all children in Bangladesh are in school. It has been a dramatic transformation.

On this visit we went to Korail, home to 50,000 people, in the middle of the capital city Dhaka. It’s one of Bangladesh’s biggest slums. We went inside a one-roomed building, housing a class of 20 children. They were enthusiastic, and eager to show us what they had been learning. The school is run by BRAC, a remarkable Bangladeshi development charity which has schools all over the country.

The British High Commissioner told us Bangladesh is a development success. Millions are still in poverty, but there has been huge progress. Economic development has benefited ordinary people like those children we met, not just a few at the top.

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Britain has made an important contribution. Thanks to the Make Poverty History campaign 10 years ago, the Labour government committed Britain to the United Nations target: to give at least 0.7 per cent of its GDP in international aid. The current government is delivering that target. Bangladesh is one of the biggest recipients of British aid, and that has helped the big expansion in education.

Many people in east London supported Make Poverty History. My visit proved to me it was worth it. More from Stephen

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