Sophie Countess of Wessex honoured by Hillary Clinton as ‘extraordinary trailblazer’ for helping to promote women’s rights
The Countess, 57, is being recognised for her work campaigning against sexual violence in conflict zones at the annual Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards ceremony.
The event is taking place at The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security in Washington DC, with the Countess, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska and the UK and Ukrainian ambassadors to the US in attendance.
It comes as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex dropped the second trailer for their bombshell Netflix documentary telling ‘their story’ about life in the Royal family.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex is being honoured today by Hillary Clinton as an ‘extraordinary trailblazer’ for helping to promote women’s rights
The awards are bestowed annually by the former US Secretary of State for ‘exceptional leadership in advancing women’s rights and creating a more peaceful and secure world for all’.
The Royal, who is married to Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar, is in the US on her second trip to there this year, after she addressed the UN regarding violence against women in March.
Sophie has been lauded by the awards as ‘a full-time working member of the Royal Family and a patron of over 70 charities and organisations.’
She is not the only Royal being honoured this week. Harry and Meghan are expected to attend the Ripple of Hope Award ceremony in New York, where they will be honoured for their ‘moral courage’ by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organisation.
Harry and Meghan are expected to attend the Ripple of Hope Award ceremony in New York, where they will be honoured for their ‘moral courage’ by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organisation
Opening the awards ceremony today, Mrs Clinton said that in Iran, Ukraine, Yemen and Tigray ‘women and girls are caught up in conflict and are victims of horrific sexual violence.’
The former US First Lady also highlighted the importance of understanding women’s experiences of war and contributions to bringing peace.
‘Women are not just victims of war, they are agents of peace,’ she said.
She said that those who engage in ‘systemic rape’ in warzones are ‘guilty of crimes against humanity’ and ‘must be held to account’.
The awards are bestowed annually by the former US Secretary of State (pictured last week) for ‘exceptional leadership in advancing women’s rights and creating a more peaceful and secure world for all’
She added that the Countess has ‘devoted her time to supporting the UN’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda’.
‘She has travelled to some of the most violent and difficult conflict zones to meet with survivors and spotlight their needs.’
Sophie was honoured for her ‘service’ and ‘powerful advocacy within the global community to support survivors and bring an end to sexual violence’ as well as for ‘providing hope to many who desperately want to have their lives back’.
The Countess spoke as she was presented with the award, and condemned the use of sexual violence as a ‘weapon of total control and fear’ in her speech.
‘Like chemical weapons it must become something that is reviled by the international community, it must be something that is prohibited at the highest levels,’ she said.
The Countess of Wessex with surgeon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Denis Mukwege at a Panzi Hospital, in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, where she met victims of conflict-related sexual violence and trauma in October this year
‘Too long have survivors of rape in war had no voice, too long have they had to bare the burden of others inaction on these crimes and too long have the perpetrators not been held to account.’
The Countess of Wessex is being celebrated alongside four Ukrainian campaigners and leaders who have fought to uphold and advance women’s rights, including the First Lady of Ukraine, Ms Zelenska.
The British and Ukrainian ambassadors to the US, Dame Karen Pierce and Oksana Markarova, were also present at the ceremony.
Sophie also joined Ms Zelenska at a major global conference in London last week to call for an end to rape in warzones.
President Zelensky’s wife told the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict summit that rape is being used ‘systematically and openly’ by occupiers in her country nine months after it was invaded by Vladimir Putin’s forces.
She said that survivors are often too scared to testify during wartime, adding that Ukraine has got hold of recordings of Russian troops openly discussing rape with relatives back home.
‘This is another instrument that they’re using as their weaponry. This is another weapon in their arsenal in this war and conflict. That’s why they’re using this systematically and openly,’ she told the conference.
The Countess of Wessex is being celebrated alongside four Ukrainian campaigners and leaders who have fought to uphold and advance women’s rights, including the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska (pictured addressing MPs in Parliament last week)
At the summit, the Countess of Wessex also described her experience visiting hospitals for rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
She praised doctors there and said that she hoped passing on her experience meeting survivors would help people to remember their ‘humanity’.
Sophie previously worked with the Georgetown Institute in March, as it co-hosted an event on Upholding Women’s Rights in Afghanistan with the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan and UN Women.
She has travelled to conflict areas including Kosovo, Kenya, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and others to ‘respond to the needs of surviviors as well as to tackle the stigma and pain that endure and do not diminish with time.’
‘She listens to their harrowing stories, is inspired by their determination not to be defined by what’s happened to them,’ the host of today’s award ceremony said.
On International Women’s Day 2019, Sophie announced her commitment to champion the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and the Preventing Violence in Conflict Initiative, for which she has ‘provided active leadership’.
The Countess also travelled to New York earlier this year in her role as Global Ambassador of 100 Women in Finance’s Next Generation Initiative.