Sophie Wessex makes trip to Iraq as she champions cause close to her heart

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, paid a secret visit to Iraq as part of her work on female empowerment and conflict-related sexual violence. The senior royal spent two days in the country’s capital, Baghdad, where she heard about the challenges Iraqi women and girls are facing as well as the work being undertaken to promote their rights, Buckingham Palace said.

The trip was carried out at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, in support of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS), the Palace added.

The WPS is a United Nations initiative recognising not just the impact of conflict on women and girls but also the positive role women play in conflict resolution and building peace.

During her stay, kept secret for security reasons, the Duchess of Edinburgh attended several engagements.

Sophie has spoken candidly about her work on sexual violence in areas of conflict and the importance to listen to victims and tell their stories to the world.

During a previous event, Sophie acknowledged hearing some of the victims’ harrowing stories took her to “some very dark places”.

Speaking of meeting survivors of sexual violence, she said in January 2021: “To hear their stories, you know when you’ve got tears dripping off your chin, I mean you just, you can’t help but weep with them because they are so terrible, these stories.

“It really is heartbreaking and I’ve gone to some very dark places, you know, internally.

“But I’m not living it and therefore if they can survive, if they can put one foot in front of the other, then for goodness’ sake of course I can.”

While in Iraq, Sophie visited a high school for girls and spoke to students and teachers about education in Iraq and their hopes for the future.

The Duchess also toured a family planning centre, where she heard about the work being carried out to support the reproductive health and wellbeing of Iraqi women.

A champion of gender equality and inclusion in the workplace, Sophie also met female business leaders to discuss the importance of women’s economic empowerment.

While in Baghdad, Prince Edward’s wife also delivered a message of greeting from the King to the Iraqi president, Abdul Latif Rashid, and First Lady Shanaz Ibrahim Ahmed, and held a meeting with the country’s leader. 

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Sophie isn’t the first member of the Royal Family to have visited Iraq.

As Prince of Wales, King Charles travelled to the country in 2004 to meet military personnel in Basra as the confict in Iraq was ongoing.

Two years later, Prince Philip also headed to Basra to meet British troops.

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