Sophie Wessex makes Royal history as family resume work after Queens death
Sophie, Countess of Wessex has made history, after becoming the first member of the Royal Family to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Buckingham Palace announced on Monday that Sophie, 57, is carrying out an official visit to the African country at the request of the Foreign Office.
The Palace said that the countess’s visit will focus on addressing the devastating impact of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, while supporting and empowering survivors and tackling the stigma they face.
She is being accompanied by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict.
Security will be tight for Sophie’s visit, which had been planned for many months before the death of the Queen, who passed away aged 96 on 8 September.
In its recent history, the DRC has endured years of civil conflict in what has been called Africa’s world war, with the loss of up to six million lives through fighting or disease and malnutrition.
A peace agreement was signed in 2002 but violence continued in some areas, requiring a large United Nations military force to try to maintain order.
This August, Africa’s second largest country faced rising regional tensions in the east, with weeks of deadly protests against UN peacekeepers.
Sophie’s visit is taking place in the run-up to the International Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative Conference in London next month, which is being hosted by the UK Government and which the countess will attend.
She publicly committed herself to supporting the UK’s work helping victims of rape, sexual violence and exploitation in war in 2019.
Sophie said last year that hearing survivors’ stories of sexual violence has taken her to “some very dark places” during her work to raise awareness.
“Every story I am told is pushing me forward. I feel obligated to tell people this is happening – it is their story to tell and I support them,” she added.
As she met with representatives from TRIAL International; a non-governmental organisation which is dedicated to fighting impunity for international crimes in conflict, mum of two Sophie showed off her affable nature which has won her many fans.
Wearing a green patterned midi-dress and accessorising with a beautiful gold pendant necklace, Sophie beamed as she discussed the issues with her peers.
Sophie is no doubt still mourning – though not officially – the loss of the Queen, with whom she was known to be particularly close.
The wife of the late Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, forged a dependable relationship with the Monarch, who was said to have thought of Sophie as her "second daughter".
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