WASHINGTON, D.C.—February 16, 2021—HRH The Countess of Wessex told a Georgetown audience that supporting women in conflict zones will benefit all of society.
“Having more women around a peacebuilding table, the effect [is] peace can last for longer. It’s not dissimilar when you look at what having more women around the boardroom table can do for the bottom line of business. Just that simple mathematics really struck a chord with me,” said The Countess of Wessex in a virtual conversation with Georgetown Ambassadors for Women, Peace and Security on February 10.
While the term ‘women peacebuilder’ might have been unknown to many before the pandemic, The Countess of Wessex said these female civil society leaders are gaining traction in their conflict-affected communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They are the ones that are going out and organizing things, whether it be PPE, whether it be trying to educate children, whether it be trying to provide support for people in need…It’s the women that will get things done, and will make things happen.”
Despite their contributions, women peacebuilders continue to be excluded from formal peace processes and peace negotiations. The Countess of Wessex, a former public relations expert, emphasized the need to explain—especially to men—that giving women a seat in peace negotiations can benefit everyone.
“The women peacebuilders around the table…they want peace for everybody. It’s a win-win situation. So it’s about trying to thoughtfully socialize the men into realizing that this is not about women, it’s about what is good for the community.”
Two years ago, The Countess of Wessex publicly announced her commitment to supporting women peacemakers and preventing sexual violence in conflict zones, in alignment with the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). Her Royal Highness is passionate about drawing attention to the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls and the positive role women play in building peace and stability.
“The Countess of Wessex is a deeply committed leader on the women, peace and security agenda. Her high-profile advocacy, dedication and substantive engagement are making a significant contribution. It is a privilege to be able to collaborate with her,” said Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, who moderated the virtual conversation.
Reflecting on the past two years, The Countess of Wessex said: “I think the progress is glacial, if I’m honest. We all know that rape and violence is used as a weapon to overpower and to control. In the travels that I have been on—whether it be to Kosovo to Kenya to South Sudan to Sierra Leone—no matter how long ago those conflicts have occurred, the trauma is still there…and the stigma hasn’t gone away.”
However, she remains determined: “I don’t think we’re getting very far with it, but all that does is propel me on.”
In attendance were two dozen members of the Georgetown Ambassadors for Women, Peace and Security, a group of influential women working to advance women’s rights globally.
“Your Royal Highness, thank you for your leadership and giving a voice to women and girls, and men and boys, who have been denied both their right to speak and human rights as a result of conflict,” said Baroness Mary Goudie, a member of the Georgetown Ambassadors for Women, Peace and Security. “You’ve provided support to those seeking to play a part in peace and enable those in conflict to rebuild their lives.”
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Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful, and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies, and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. We engage in rigorous research, host global convenings, advance strategic partnerships, and nurture the next generation of leaders. Housed within the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, the Institute is headed by the former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer.