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The debate on women’s rights is ‘win, win’ for all – Sophie

Tony Jones
·5-min read

The Countess of Wessex has suggested that the debate on women’s rights should be widened to a “much more level playing field” to prevent “fatigue” setting in.

Sophie warned that discussions on equality are “not one against the other” but “win, win” for all, during a programme featuring the royal family celebrating the Commonwealth – screened ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell interview.

The Prince of Wales also appeared in the programme and called for the Commonwealth to be the “boldest of the bold” and set an example to the world in leading towards a sustainable future.

Royal Year
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended last year’s Commonwealth Day event at Westminster Abbey with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and other senior royals (Phil Harris/Daily Mirror/PA)

Speaking during a pre-recorded video call with female activists, the countess said: “There can become a bit of a fatigue when it comes to talking about women’s rights, women’s issues and everything.

“And so I’m quite keen to try and move the discussion into a place where it becomes a much more level playing field because it is a win, win – it’s not one against the other.”

Watch: Countess of Wessex says she is 'so happy' as her father gets coronavirus vaccine

Sophie had been asked to respond to a comment by Caitlin Figueiredo, founder and chief executive of the social enterprise Jasiri Australia, which aims to increase women’s and girls’ access to politics.

Ms Figueiredo had said: “Better policy and better outcomes are achieved when women are in the room, when the other half the population are in the room and getting to make sure that all of their voices, all of their issues are represented.”

The countess publicly committed herself to supporting the UK’s work helping victims of rape, sexual violence and exploitation in war in 2019.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Meghan and Harry’s Oprah Winfrey interview will be aired a day after the Commonwealth programme (Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese/PA)

She has also been working in other fields to promote women, having founded the Women’s Network Forum in 2014 which she chairs, and bringing together a cross-industry group of senior figures to promote gender balance and equality in the workplace.

The growing war of words over Meghan and Harry’s controversial televised chat with Oprah Winfrey overshadowed the special BBC programme marking Commonwealth Day.

In extracts from the two-hour interview released over the last few days, the duchess criticised the constraints she faced when a working royal, and said it was “liberating” to be able to “say yes” to a request for an interview with the US chat show host.

Watch: The Queen delivers annual Commonwealth message

And she has accused The Firm – as the royal family is sometimes known – of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Harry.

The programme A Service Of Celebration For Commonwealth Day featured the Queen’s message, in which she said about the pandemic: “The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others.”

Commonwealth Day 2021
The Queen’s Commonwealth Day message featured in the programme (Steve Parson/PA)

Charles said in his speech: “This pandemic has shown us the true nature of a global emergency.

“We have learned that human health, economic health and planetary health are fundamentally interconnected. And that pandemics, climate change and biodiversity loss are existential threats which know no borders. Nature, it seems to me, is at the heart of this.”

He went on: “The Commonwealth has been a cornerstone of my life for as long as I can remember. It is my dearest wish that it might also be the cornerstone of a sustainable future for as long as we recover from everything that we have endured and continue to endured through this pandemic.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to change course by harnessing the extraordinary potential of our Commonwealth family. We are uniquely placed to lead the way. So let us be the boldest of the bold and let us offer an example to the world.”

During the programme, the Duchess of Cornwall was shown speaking to broadcaster Clare Balding about how her interest in books was inspired by her father Major Bruce Shand’s love for literature and how she has come to appreciate the internet.

Commenting on the inspiration for her Instagram-based book club, Camilla said: “I have to admit, I have to put my hand up… So, before lockdown I wasn’t a great lover of the internet; in fact, I was always trying to wrench these machines away from my grandchildren.

“But since lockdown, I’m afraid, I have to admit, I have become a little bit of an addict.

“During the first lockdown I just thought it might be a good idea to make a list of some of my favourite books online – another asset of the internet.”

Watch: William and Kate speak to pandemic staff across the Commonwealth

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge held a video call with Dr Zolelwa Sifumba, from South Africa, an advocate for the rights of healthcare workers on the front line.

Kate told him: “Here in the UK there’s been masses of public recognition of the amazing work the front line are doing and it’s sad, almost, that it’s taken the pandemic for the public to really back and support all those working on the front line.”

The programme also featured music and readings and included performances by musician Nitin Sawhney, singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas and a reflection by Olympic gold medal-winning heptathlete Denise Lewis.