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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 16:19 GMT
Clergy urges Blair to end poverty
Dawn French at Downing Street
Dawn French stars in the Vicar of Dibley
Hundreds of female clergy joined comedian Dawn French in London to support calls to end world poverty.

The Make Poverty History campaign, which wants the government to address issues of world debt and foreign aid, was launched in Trafalgar Square.

On Thursday, about 200 women vicars marched to Downing Street to urge the prime minister to take action.

Mrs French said: "Thirty-thousand people a day die in Africa and that is utterly unacceptable."

Organised by a cross-section of charities, Make Poverty History is asking the UK public to send a message to the government by wearing a white band round their arm and urging leaders to make changes around debt, trade and aid that keep poor countries poor.

There's a pretty formidable group of women here, and there are a lot of white collars
Dawn French

The group hopes Mr Blair can use his chairmanship this year of the G8 - a collection of the richest nations in the world - to influence other countries.

After meeting Tony Blair, Ms French told BBC News: "The prime minister's job in our eyes is to persuade other leaders in the G8 to come around to make sure the aims of Make Poverty History are achieved.

"He did not make any commitments today but he has listened.

"There's a pretty formidable group of women here, and there are a lot of white collars here today, and he has opened the door for more conversation - and that's good."

"This visit to Downing Street is designed to show just how strongly the clergy feel that the millions of people who live in poverty every day should have a chance to improve their lives
Dr Mary Bradford, churches campaign manager for Christian Aid
Dr Mary Bradford, churches campaign manager for Christian Aid, said: "The churches have been the backbone of virtually every major campaign against mass poverty over the last eight years or so.

"This visit to Downing Street is designed to show just how strongly the clergy feel that the millions of people who live in poverty every day should have a chance to improve their lives."

The group met in Trafalgar Square, where Nelson's Column was dressed in a giant white band, before they made their way down Whitehall towards Downing Street.

A delegation of 10 women, including Dawn French then handed the band into Downing Street for the attention of Tony Blair.




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