Violence against Women and Girls Reception at Buckingham Palace

Queen Camilla hosted a reception to raise awareness of violence against women and girls as part of the UN 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence at Buckingham Palace on November 29th, for which she was joined by Queen Rania of Jordan, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, and the Countess of Wessex.

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The 300 Guests at the Reception included survivors of violence against women and girls, their families, politicians and charities working in the area (including representatives from SafeLives, Women’s Aid and Refuge) Ambassadors for the cause included the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland, Melanie Brown, Fiona Bruce, Yalda Hakim, Lorraine Kelly, Emma Barnett, Zara McDermott and Hayley Atwell as well as the First Lady Fatima Bio of Sierra Leone and First Lady Olena Zelenska of Ukraine. Queen Camilla has worked for years to raise awareness about violence against women – hearing first hand from survivors, advocating on their behalf and convening charities and decision makers in the space to discuss key issues, and the reception, taking place during the UN 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, is a high watermark of her work in the area. Queen Rania, Queen Mathilde, Crown Princess Mary and the Countess of Wessex have also worked in the area of Gender-Based Violence for years, while Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg had to step out due to a family emergency. 

Your Majesties, Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Buckingham Palace as we gather on the fifth of the “16 days of activism against gender-based violence”.

These 16 days mark the UN’s annual campaign that runs from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10th December, Human Rights Day.  Throughout the world, individuals and organisations are coming together to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. Why?

Because over a period of 16 days, worldwide, more than 2,000 women will be killed by a partner or a member of their own family. Because, in England and Wales alone, during that same period, police will record that more than 3,000 women have been raped. And because up to 1 in 3 women across the globe will endure domestic violence in the course of their lifetime. Behind every one of these statistics lie individual stories of human suffering and heartbreak.

We are uniting today to confront, rightly, what has rightly been called a global pandemic of violence against women. Faced with such challenges, it can be hard to know what practical steps we can take to even begin to make a difference.

Over the years, in my previous role, I had the privilege of meeting many survivors of rape and domestic abuse; and of sharing in the sorrow of people who had lost family members to violence. And again and again, I heard that two of the most powerful ways in which to help were to remember and to listen.

We remember those women who have lost their lives at the hands of a stranger, or of the person who should have loved them best. In so doing, we refuse to be desensitised by cold facts and figures and we resolve to keep the names and the memories of these women alive. We remember Brenda Blainey, Mariam Kamara, Lucy Powell, Samantha Drummonds, Yasmin Begum, Sally Turner, Hina Bashir, Jillu Nash and her 12-year-old daughter Louise, to name but a very few of those who have been killed this year alone.  And we remember – because we cannot forget – all the other women and girls who died in similarly horrific circumstances.

These women, tragically, can no longer speak for themselves. But we listen to those who can. I have learnt from my conversations with these brave survivors that what they want, above all, is to be listened to and believed, to prevent the same thing happening to others. They know there is power in their stories and that, in the telling, they move from being the victims of their histories to the authors of their own futures.

I have heard countless examples of the ways in which victims have become victors, using their experiences to hold out a hand to help others escape abuse. One such person, Vicky, left a violent relationship and her ex-partner was sent to prison.  Knowing what it was like to live in permanent fear, she started working for the police, supporting victims and witnesses of crime. Today, she is an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser and says of herself, “There is life after abuse. I am evidence of that”.

Ladies and gentlemen, your vital work is, in the same way, evidence that there is life after abuse. You are also evidence that we can have hope as we head towards our goal of ending violence against women and girls. Armed with that hope, let us press on. Let us not lose this precious opportunity to speak up and to galvanise action that will see the end of these heinous crimes forever. With determination and courage, we will succeed. Thank you.

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