In 2005, Scotland hosted the G8 in Gleneagles where world leaders made the historic pledge to "Make poverty history".

Eight years on, the UK is again hosting leaders, this time in Northern Ireland, so it seems appropriate to reflect on how far we've come in reaching that goal.

I am particularly proud that we have helped 5.3 million children have a primary school education and will have improved access to security and justice services for 10 million women and girls by 2015.

But there is still much to be done.

This weekend, the UK launched a global push to tackle world hunger, recognising that there are still countries where children do not get enough of the right kinds of food to eat, particularly within the first 1000 days of life. How can countries end poverty if malnutrition blights their people? An estimated 11% of GDP is lost to undernutrition in many African and Asian countries. A weakened workforce cannot work at full strength, meaning the loss of billions of dollars in productivity, and limiting not only the potential of individuals but of the country's economic prospects.

That is one reason why, even in these tough times, the UK wants to do the right thing and help countries where there is extreme poverty. It is why, this year, we will be the first G8 nation to honour our promise to spend 0.7 % of Gross National Income on development.

The only way for developing countries to end aid dependency for good is through higher levels of sustained growth. Decent jobs and trade are essential components. Focusing on economic development of poorer countries is also firmly in our national interest because it contributes to global prosperity, increased trade and more security.

I know of Scotland's enduring and strong relationship with Malawi and I will be visiting the country later this year. This work has made a real difference to millions, meaning that Malawi is becoming economically stronger and in the longer term will be less reliant on international support. It is proof that countries across Africa can reform and plan for the future. That said, we know that this progress is slow. We know that things are not easy and many people in Malawi are suffering great hardship: over two million people are in need of food assistance this year and rising prices are impacting on many more

At the Department for International Development (DFID), we continue to support Malawi's development progress and we're confident that under the watchful eye of President Joyce Banda this is a country that is set to do well. President Banda and I are active campaigners for women's rights, her dedication to end violence against women and girls is an issue close to my own heart.

One of my responsibilities is as Ministerial Champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas. This is a cause I am personally and passionately engaged in day-to-day and am responsible for raising up the international agenda.

Earlier this year, I announced a new DFID programme of up to £35m to help eradicate female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) – the largest ever donor commitment to tackling this practice. This is one of the worst kinds of gender violence – mostly perpetrated against children, and often inflicting a lifetime of damage. For too long, the international community has stayed silent on this subject, finding it too sensitive to tackle. Supporting this movement is one of my main priorities.

Charities in Scotland estimate that 3000 women may be living with the effects of FGM/C and the same number are at risk of having that practice done to them. I'll be hearing how charitable organisations are working together with government bodies in Scotland to ensure children are safeguarded and women who have suffered from the consequences of FGM/C are supported with the appropriate care.

Gender equality and empowerment is crucial for eradicating poverty and development. We cannot end poverty in our lifetime if we do not achieve long term transformational change in the lives of the poorest girls and women worldwide.

Lynne Featherstone is International Development Minister in the Coalition Government.