Countess of Wessex addresses United Nations about women in Afghanistan

After marking Commonwealth Day in New York on Monday, The Countess of Wessex continued her solo trip to New York, undertaking engagements in the city, with a focus on gender inequalities for women.

Her Royal Highness gave the keynote address at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan event. It was hosted by the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security.

The Countess of Wessex spoke at the UN on the topic of women’s equality in Afghanistan (GIWPS/Twitter)

Sophie opened her address by acknowledging a recent encounter with an Afghan translator who left Afghanistan in 2014.

She noted how ‘life has regressed, yet the Taliban would have us believe that they are allowing citizens to go about their normal activities. We know that this is not true.

“So while we welcome their announcement that they have committed to re-opening schools to girls this month, and the return of some women to university, what we know is that the rights of women and girls have worsened,” the Countess said.

Sophie gave a keynote address where she discussed the rights of women in Afghanistan. (Royal Family).

“Afghanistan is facing a desperate humanitarian and economic crisis and that there is severe food insecurity. It is so hard to imagine how much has changed for so many in so little time. Where once there was hope, with women playing a central role in society, there is now hunger, destitution and violence.”

HRH spoke about the ‘devastating invasion of Ukraine’ and how naturally ‘our attention is at risk of being diverted from Afghanistan’. She added ‘the crisis in Afghanistan has not gone away, and the effects are worsening daily’.

Concluding her address, Sophie posed the questions: “So what can we do to help the women and girls of Afghanistan? How can we support the brave women peace builders and activists and all those who have stood up to the Taliban to demand their rights while risking their lives in doing so? How do we ensure that the international community remains involved and engaged with the issues that Afghanistan is facing?’

During the ‘Upholding Women’s Rights in Afghanistan’ event, Her Royal Highness spoke to experts and leading policy makers as they discussed how to make greater international efforts to protect the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan more effective.

You can watch Sophie’s address here. She has previously addressed the UN, last year, as part of the 65th Commission on the Status of Women virtual event, again on the topic of women in Afghanistan. In 2019, Sophie spoke in New York as part of the Women in Power series.

As part of her wider royal duties, Sophie chairs the Women in Business Group, is a Global Ambassador for 100 Women in Finance, President of Girl Guiding UK.

Earlier in the day, The Countess of Wessex also attended a briefing to hear about the impact of the conflict of Ukrainian women and girls, and the international humanitarian response.

The Countess of Wessex joined UN Women representatives and NGOs at a briefing on the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on women and girls. (Royal Family)

The issue of supporting women’s rights in areas of conflict is one The Queen’s daughter-in-law has tackled for a number of years.

Last year, she was a guest at the 65th Commission on the Status of Women, a virtual event held by the Afghanistan Mission, the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN. Sophie noted how the ‘women in Afghanistan have made such huge strides forward and they have always been effective but for so many years they were kept in the shadows and have actually started to make an impact on the country.’

The Countess of Wessex has previously spoken out on how ‘every story’ she hears about someone’s experience with violence lives with her, and she has been working in the area of campaigning against sexual violence in warzones for a number of years, alongside the likes of Angelina Jolie.

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