Duchess of Cornwall calls on Commonwealth to end gender-based violence

Her speech echoed one given by the Queen 75 years ago, calling on leaders to take 'personal responsibility' to find a solution

The Duchess' speech echoed the words of the Queen, 75 years ago Credit: Chris Jackson /Chris Jackson Collection

The Duchess of Cornwall has echoed a speech given by the Queen 75 years ago as she appealed to the Commonwealth to use its “power” to end gender-based violence.

The Duchess, addressing a violence against women event in Kigali, Rwanda on Thursday, said the Commonwealth Heads of Government gathering in the East African country had “one purpose: to find solutions”.

In one of her strongest speeches to date on the subject, she said that each one of us “must take personal responsibility not to let this opportunity be lost”.

The Duchess called upon delegates to take inspiration from the Queen’s “words, her example and her deep love for the Commonwealth” as she quoted a speech delivered by the then Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday in 1947: “If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing - more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world,” she said.

The Duchess said it was “surely significant” that every member state had signed up for the “Commonwealth says NO MORE” campaign against domestic violence as she urged action over words.

The Duchess said women are 'seeking rights not favours' Credit: Chris Jackson /Chris Jackson Collection

She added: “We are seeking rights not favours.

“There is power in this alliance. In the strength of our unity, we, the women and men of the Commonwealth stand with victims and survivors, who, despite the temptation to hide away in silence, speak up so that others know they aren’t alone - whether in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific opr the Caribbean and Americas.

“In so doing, we have the opportunity to end gender-based violence and those laws and practices and those laws and practices that discriminate against women.”

Carrie Johnson, who arrived in Kigali on Thursday morning with the Prime Minister, joined the Duchess at the event.

Carrie Johnson joined the Duchess at the Violence Against Women and Girls event at the Kigali Convention Centre Credit: Chris Jackson /Chris Jackson Collection

Mrs Johnson has long supported her work on gender-based violence and was in the audience when the Duchess spoke on the subject in London last October.

In 2009, she was one of 14 women who testified against “black cab rapist” John Worboys, who picked her up in his taxi in 2007, when she was 19.

Calls to domestic violence helplines up '500pc'

The future Queen consort has vowed to keep campaigning against domestic violence for “a lifetime”. Earlier this year, after the Queen cemented her future title with a ringing personal endorsement, the Duchess acknowledged it had already elevated her platform. 

She has worked alongside Diana Parkes, whose daughter Joanna Simpson was killed by her husband in 2010, and has called for a “culture change” in the way violence against women is tackled.

Last year, she delivered a powerful speech in which she asked: “How many more women must be harassed, raped or murdered before we truly unite to forge a violence-free world.”

Today, the Duchess noted that calls to domestic violence helplines across the Commonwealth had increased by up to 500 per cent, and that globally, nearly one in three women have been abused in their lifetime. She described the figures as “shocking”.

She referred to her visit, alongside the Prince of Wales, to the Kigali Genocide Memorial and the message she had taken away, that we all have a personal responsibility to fight discrimination and ideologies that cause such destruction to others.

It was in that “same spirit of encouraging personal responsibility” that she spoke today, she said.