The Countess of Wessex is in Sierra Leone this week, focusing on “addressing sexual and gender-based violence, supporting survivors, and championing women’s roles in peacebuilding.”
The visit, which came at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, sees Sophie undertaking engagements in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown.
The Royal Family website announced Sophie’s visit earlier this week, noting that “Almost 20 years after the end of the 1991-2002 civil war, Her Royal Highness will hear how Sierra Leone has successfully transitioned to a sustained peace following the conflict.Embed from Getty Images
“This will include learning about the role of the Special Court and Truth and Reconciliation Commission in bringing justice to survivors of the conflict, including survivors of sexual violence.”
The Royal Family website also noted that her visit will update her on “how the UK has helped Sierra Leone to increase the part that women play in promoting peace and security.”
On Wednesday, Sophie paid a visit to The Peace Museum, which was built on the site of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, where she received a tour of the facilities and joined a roundtable discussion with women soldiers. The museum stands as a recollection of a country that lived through a brutal civil war, with exhibits and displays featuring uniforms and archive testimonies of those who lived through it.
The Royal Family Instagram account noted that Sophie met with two survivors “to hear their experiences,” and “learnt how it has continued to affect their lives to this day.” She also learned more about the Special Court and Truth and Reconciliation Commission that works to bring justice to conflict survivors and survivors of sexual violence.
Sophie also attended a roundtable discussion with members of the civil society to hear about “current societal issues and the continued violence faced by women and girls in Sierra Leone,” per the Royal Family website.Embed from Getty Images
“Her Royal Highness will hear how efforts are being made to tackle these issues – particularly reducing stigma – which is helping more women to report incidents of rape.”
Sophie also met with government officials and received a tour of the chambers in the Parliament in Freetown. Afterwards, according to the Daily Mail, she received an embroidered sash as a gift from a women’s parliamentary group; and was serenaded by a group of local women outside the Parliament.
Later, Sophie attended a reception at the British High Commissioner’s residence and gave a speech.
On Thursday, Sophie will visit a health centre “to see how investments in education and family planning are helping to empower girls and women to have greater choice and control over their bodies and lives and to achieve their aspirations.”
She will also visit a secondary school, which will show how the UK government support “is helping to keep girls safe and in education.”
Sophie’s visit to Sierra Leone concludes on Thursday.