This week saw The Countess of Wessex, travel to Nairobi as part of her work with the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. On Thursday, Sophie attend the 12th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting, hosted by the government of Kenya. The theme for this year’s meeting is ‘From Commitment to Action: Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for Sustainable Development’.
.@PScotlandCSG welcomes HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, to attend and speak at the grand opening of the 12th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting taking place in Nairobi. #WAMM pic.twitter.com/CJn7l6HKGz
— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) September 19, 2019
Her Royal Highness’s visit to Kenya is focused on preventing sexual violence in conflict, gender inequality and girls’ education. The Ministers of Women’s Affairs from across 28 Commonwealth countries came together to turn their commitment on achieving gender equality and female empowerment into action. They discussed how they are all working to advance female rights across the Commonwealth, including the provision of quality education for girls.
Sophie gave an incredible speech where she urged Commonwealth leaders to “live up to and embody the original values that the Commonwealth was founded on,” to help bring about gender quality and that an “increased focus” on ending gender discrimination was vital.
The Countess spoke about the importance of offering “greater support” for victims of conflict-related sexual violence, and for “children born of rape”.
The Countess continued: “We must not limit our ambitions – we also want to promote women as negotiators, as ceasefire and peace agreement monitors, as front-line peacekeepers and as political leaders. Women throughout the Commonwealth, particularly at the grassroots level, have experiences to share that we can all learn from; their expertise should be recognised and promoted.
Sophie said she believed that, “…together we need to have an increased focus on ending gender inequality and discrimination, and an increased focus on building environments that enable women’s political participation and economic empowerment.”
The Countess went on to say that by doing so, the Commonwealth would be able to move forward, “from conflict and violence to sustainable and feminist peace”.
This is the first time a member of the Royal Family has used the term, “feminist” during a public speech. The Duchess of Sussex, The Duchess of Cornwall and the Countess herself have all talked about gender inequality but the term “feminist” has never been used before.
Sophie said she was “honour bound” to report the progress back to The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, who was delighted that the meeting to further women’s rights was being held. She stated that The Queen was looking forward to news of the “full and productive outcomes” of the meeting.
Later that day, The Countess of Wessex, as part of her work with the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, made a visit to RefuSHE. This is an NGO, that provides shelter, education, legal advocacy, counselling and community outreach services for thousands for young women and children who have been forced to flee conflict zones.
Pleased to welcome HRH The Countess of Wessex to Kenya today ??
Her Royal Highness will participate in the 12th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting in Nairobi, as part of a visit focussed on gender equality, preventing sexual violence in conflict, & girls’ education pic.twitter.com/oUygdcG5tx
— UK in Kenya (@UKinKenya) September 19, 2019
Anne Sweeny, the Co-founder of RefuSHE said: “We created RefuSHE to be a model for protection, empowerment, and peace-building in Kenya and beyond”.
RefuSHE is the first and only organisation of its kind providing vital services to refugee women and girls in Nairobi. Sophie met with refugees from across East Africa, including Somalia and South Sudan. As she arrived, a little girl in a white dress handed Sophie a bunch of flowers.
The Royal was introduced to the Girl’s Empowerment Program and Artisan Collective, ran by RefuSHE. This initiative equips women and girls skills, including hand and machine stitching to tie-dye and scarf making to help them gain financial independence. As she toured the facilities, she watched the process of scarf-making and stitching and viewed some of the stunning completed projects.
The Countess, 54, was treated to a fashion-show at the end of her visit, where the young women showed off their wonderful hand-stitched items, including scarves and linen lunch-bags. The mother-of-two, who had added a green traditional Kenyan scarf to her chiffon Erdem dress, sat down with the CEO, Jailan Adly and Chairwoman Rosalind Raddatz to watch the girls dancing. Shortly afterwards, Sophie joined in with the traditional dancing.
The mother-of-two joined in with the traditional dancing. Following her visit, RefuSHE tweeted their sincere thanks to the Countess: “Our girls had a wonderful time sharing their stories, handmade designs, and traditional dancing with The Countess of Wessex today”.
The women and girls from @WeAreRefuSHE showcased their exquisite handmade products, from scarves to linen lunch bags, during a fashion show and performance.
An extra special thank you to The Countess’s dance partner, 15 year old Gizele from the Democratic Republic of the Congo! pic.twitter.com/8o1weCr8SI
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 19, 2019