The Countess of Wessex devotes much of her time to supporting the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). Her Royal Highness is passionate about supporting women and championing gender equality.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is a United Nations Initiative that aims to put more women at the centre of conflict resolution, and encourage women’s meaningful participation in peace processes. It also recognises the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls around the world. Find out more here.
The Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative is a UK Government-led initiative that aims to raise awareness of the extent of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, and encourage and rally global action to end it. Find out more here.
The Countess of Wessex announced her commitment to champion both WPS and PSVI on International Women’s Day in 2019. In front of assembled women peacebuilders at Buckingham Palace, Her Royal Highness said:
As someone who firmly believes in the equality of men and women, I feel drawn to your cause and to do what I can to help raise further awareness of your work. To help give voice to women and girls who are being denied their fundamental rights as humans and are being subjected to harm and violence as a result of conflict, to promote those who seek to play a part in finding peace, and to support others as they attempt to rebuild their lives
The Countess of Wessex
Her Royal Highness has since continued to meet and learn from women peacebuilders and survivors of conflict-related sexual violence around the world, to draw attention to the issues and champion progress.
In December 2022, The Countess visited Washington DC as part of her work championing the Women, Peace and Security agenda, where she met ambassadors and government changemakers working to offer better support for survivors and aiming to eradicate sexual violence in conflict around the world.
During the visit, Her Royal Highness was presented with the 2022 Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for her commitment to raise awareness about preventing sexual violence in conflict.
In November 2022, The Countess attended the 'International Conference for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict' in London, where she joined a Dr Denis Mukwege ‘in conversation’ as they discussed the work of the Panzi Foundation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Taking place over two-days, the conference is bringing together representatives from over 70 countries to help drive action tackle the issue. Her Royal Highness also joined a panel discussion with Lord Tariq Ahmad, Ajna Jusic, President of Assocation of Forgotten Children of War, Dr Mukwege, Esther Dingemans from the Global Survivors Fund, and the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska.
In October 2022, The Countess visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which focussed addressing the devastating impact of sexual and gender based violence in conflict, while supporting and empowering survivors and tackling the stigma they face.
In The DRC, Her Royal Highness visited the world-renowned surgeon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Denis Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital, seeing first-hand the pioneering and critical medical treatment provided to those who have endured brutal, conflict-related sexual violence and trauma.
In India and in the UK, The Countess of Wessex has convened meetings of women peacebuilders to discuss their work to resolve conflicts both within communities and at a governmental level.
In Kosovo, Lebanon, South Sudan and Sierre Leone, Her Royal Highness listened to first-hand accounts from survivors of sexual violence during conflict in their countries. The Countess heard of the challenges faced by the women in bringing their perpetrators to account and securing justice, and tackling the stigma that often surrounds conflict-related sexual violence.
Since 2018, The Countess has also met a range of academics, medical professionals and activists working to support both WPS and PSVI, to deepen her knowledge of the international effort.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Her Royal Highness has been keeping in touch with these international networks remotely, as they deal with the impact of the pandemic on their communities. The Countess joined a series of calls with ICAN (International Civil Society Action Network), an organisation which supports and furthers the work of women peacebuilders.
Her Royal Highness also paid a virtual visit to Libya in October in the days following the ceasefire announcement, to discuss with women peacebuilders the part they hope to play in building sustainable peace for the country.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security on 31 October 2020, The Countess contributed an article to a UK national newspaper in support of the resolution, which acknowledges the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls, and promotes the important role women play in building sustainable peace.
There are no magic wands when it comes to negotiating peace. Any and every negotiation will be fraught and difficult, requiring enormous patience and effort from all sides, open minds, a willingness to concede, but above all the desire to find peace. Including women in the process is essential and means a greater chance of sustained peace. Who wouldn’t want that?
The Countess of Wessex