Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, Sophie Rhys-Jones has urged Commonwealth Member States to empower young women with quality education to enable them fully participate in conflict resolution, countering extremism and feminist peace issues.
Her Royal Highness who is in the country attending the ongoing 12th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers’ Meeting in Nairobi, said education has the ability to transform young people’s lives, a necessity that all girls aged 12 years get quality education.
“Girls who get quality education will be able to realise their rights, increase their political participation and have open opportunities for them to secure better jobs and livelihoods,” said Sophie.
Sophie said she is delighted to be part of the launch of the Girls’ Education Policy Paper on gender responsive education sector planning in today’s session that encourages States to adopt a whole system approach to advancing gender equality in and through education.
Lauding the collaboration between Kenya and the United Kingdom in advancing girls’ education in the country, Sophie urged Commonwealth member States to continue with the fight on violence against women and girls and conflict related sexual violence.
“This violence significantly undermines their educational and employment opportunities. It harms women and girls’ prospects in many ways,” she added.
The Countess of Wessex also called upon the public and private business sectors of the Commonwealth to play their role in realising women’s human rights that will make them live free from violence.
She singled out SheTrades initiative which focuses on economic growth and job creation in Commonwealth through the increased participation of women owned businesses for uplifting the livelihood standards of women.
“Since April 2018, it has supported 2,500 female entrepreneurs to create business linkages in Kenya, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria. It also organised trade fairs where buyers in the trade converted sales worth over 22million US$,” said Sophie.
Sophie who invited Commonwealth members to participate in the ‘Time For Justice: Putting Survivors First’ International Conference set for November this year in London, said the forum will tackle conflict related sexual violence issues.
She said the event is a global call to action to strengthen justice for survivors, hold perpetrators to account, address the stigma endured by survivors and to strengthen efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict.
Her Royal Highness told the Commonwealth members to ensure that equality does not only address those in government or at the top of the tree of enterprise but encompass all of society regardless of gender, background, origin, race or religion.
Sophie said “We need more and more voices of women to be heard, therefor we must ensure that we are keeping these issues high on the political agenda so that women and girls may play a full role in all aspects of life.”
She however, noted that for the change to be achieved, women should stand for the original values founded by the Commonwealth which include upholding human rights, striving for peace and security, promoting tolerance, respect and understanding, ensure access to education and accomplishing gender quality.
In her remarks, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, said empowering women and girls is a crucial factor in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and realising the Commonwealth Charter objectives and priorities for gender equality.
Scotland said is it encouraging that Commonwealth member states have largely achieved gender parity in schooling for girls and boys in primary and secondary education.
She, however noted that more effort is required to increase women and girls’ entries into adult and tertiary education, adding that more technical and financial resources are also required for the achievement of affordable and universal health care coverage.
By Bernadette Khaduli