The Countess of Wessex is currently in New York city, attending the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations. Sophie landed on Sunday evening, and got to work on Monday.
Sophie began by joining the UK’s Ambassador Dame Karen Pierce for the Opening Ceremony of the Commission of the Status of Women in the UN General Assembly.
The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal and global body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It promotes women’s rights and documents the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, from those from all walks of life. It also helps shape global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
"When we include women, the whole world wins." – @antonioguterres
HRH The Countess of Wessex and Ambassador @KarenPierceUN listening to the words of the Secretary-General at the Opening Ceremony of the Commission of the Status of Women in the UN General Assembly #CSW63 pic.twitter.com/w7NblnTXy3
— UK at the UN 🇬🇧 (@UKUN_NewYork) March 11, 2019
Sophie chairs the Women in Business Group, is a Global Ambassador for 100 Women in Finance, President of Girl Guiding UK, making women, girls and their empowerment a small, but important part of her philanthropic work as a Royal.
Last week, the Countess attended a conference on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, a meeting to look at better ways to protect women and girls in war-torn areas from sexual violence, which is often used as a weapon of war.
Following on from her recent commitment to further Britain’s efforts with regards to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS) (a promise which was appropriately made on International Women’s Day last week), Sophie heard from UN representatives as well as survivors. They informed her about what is being done across the world to support women resolving conflict and building peace at a grassroots level.
The UK is committed to Women, Peace & Security 🕊️ #MoreWomenMorePeace
Today ay #CSW63, HRH The Countess of Wessex and @tariqahmadbt met with activists, UN experts and fellow UN Security Council members for a discussion on supporting women building peace at the grassroots level. pic.twitter.com/ACO1DJIKEL
— UK at the UN 🇬🇧 (@UKUN_NewYork) March 12, 2019
Interestingly, peace agreements are 35% more likely to last at least 15 years if women are involved in negotiations. But UN Women and the Council on Foreign Relations stats shows that between 1990 and 2017, women made up only 2% of mediators, 8% of peace negotiators and 5% of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes.
The Countess made a speech at the President of the General Assembly’s ‘Women in Power’ event. In her speech, she spoke about the challenges facing women’s participation and leadership and the global responsibility to help give these women a voice.
We have decided to publish the speech in full, as it is well worth reading.
“I will champion women’s full and meaningful participation in peace processes, as part of my wider support for implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.”
— UK at the UN 🇬🇧 (@UKUN_NewYork) March 13, 2019
“I am delighted to have this opportunity to share our understanding of the barriers that hinder women’s participation and leadership – and to discuss what actions we can take to break these barriers down,” The Countess of Wessex told delegates. “We have a responsibility to ensure that women have every opportunity to reach the highest levels of their profession and lead across political, economic and social spheres. In the societies we live in today, there is no excuse not to include women.
“As I suggested to an all-male board on a recent trip, if all the seats at the table are full, you just need to pull up an extra chair.
“In the last year, I have encountered some extraordinary people, like yourselves, who are devoted to doing what they can to tackle the barriers women still face. I have also been fortunate enough to meet a number of women peacebuilders who have shared their stories and insights with me.
“Last November, I also met the 2018 Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege at the PSVI International Film Festival in London. Dr Mukwege, a gynaecologist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has treated hundreds of victims of rape and abuse. I was struck by what he said about the silence. He considers the silence to be an enemy of survivors of sexual violence and a crime in itself. The silence that prevents survivors, their families and communities from reporting these crimes and seeking justice and makes complicit those who deliberately enable such a situation. Here at the UN, we can give survivors a voice. We can break down the stigma they face.
“The positions many of us in this room occupy gives us an enormous opportunity to support the work of these brave individuals. However, at the same time we cannot impose solutions. They must be home-grown. We must listen to those on the ground, whether it be women leaders breaking down barriers in the work place or survivors of sexual violence, and encourage support that is targeted at and appropriate for individual situations.
“This is my first visit to CSW and my first opportunity to see the UN in action on these issues. It has made me even more determined to use my position to break down the silence around sexual violence, and I will champion women’s full and meaningful participation in peace processes, as part of my wider support for implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. I will amplify and elevate the voices of women from those in business to those working tirelessly to bring peace to their communities.
“I look forward to working with you over the coming months and years, especially as we look ahead to the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 next year.”
The Countess of Wessex also attended an event with the UK Minister of State for the UN & Commonwealth, Lord Tariq Ahmed. This saw more discussions, this time on the topic of supporting survivors of sexual violence.
The event was hosted by the Mukwege Foundation and the Belgians.
Survivors’ voices need to be at the heart of the global effort to end sexual violence in conflict.
— UK at the UN 🇬🇧 (@UKUN_NewYork) March 12, 2019
We will update this post with more information if we find it. Sadly, the coverage of this visit has been dismal.