HRH’s visit to India – Day 3 Mumbai

The Countess of Wessex has started her 3rd day of visit to India at the permanent 26/11 memorial at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace & Tower lobby. The memorial has the names of the thirty one fallen inscribed as a permanent homage to those brave and innocent people.

photo shared by Crispin Simon (@CrispinSimon) via Twitter

The 2008 Mumbai attacks (also referred to as 26/11) were a group of terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, when 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organisation based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai.

photo shared by Crispin Simon (@CrispinSimon) via Twitter

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was specifically chosen by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terror group who attacked multiple targets, for an attack so that it will be “striking a blow against a symbol of Indian wealth and progress”. The Countess laid a wreath with personal message at the Memorial to remember the victims of Mumbai terror attacks.

photo by OSCAR Foundation shared via Facebook – click on pic to be redirected to view full gallery

Later, on day three of her tour of India to see the work of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex saw how two Queen’s Young Leaders are transforming women’s health across the country.

photo by OSCAR Foundation shared via Facebook – click on pic to be redirected to view full gallery

First, HRH visited Sassoon Dock fish market with OSCAR Foundation co-founder, Ashok Shankar Rathod. Many of the families of young boys and girls supported by the Foundation work here in very challenging circumstances. The foundation is working to give them better opportunities.

photo by OSCAR Foundation shared via Facebook – click on pic to be redirected to view full gallery

OSCAR Foundation (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) is a non-profit organisation that, through football instils the value of education and empowers underprivileged children and youth with life skills to take responsibility of their community development.

photo by OSCAR Foundation shared via Facebook – click on pic to be redirected to view full gallery

Ashok Shankar Rathod along with two other founding members started the OSCAR Foundation in 2006. OSCAR runs a unique programme that not only teaches the sport to children and youth but also helps them to understand the value of education.

photo by OSCAR Foundation shared via Facebook – click on pic to be redirected to view full gallery

Then, Sophie visited The Oscar Foundation in the Ambedkar Nagar Community. At the Foundation’s computer centre in the Community HRH was reunited with some of the girls she first met when she hosted them at the Windsor Castle during their #Kicklikeagirl UK tour last year.

photo by OSCAR Foundation shared via Facebook – click on pic to be redirected to view full gallery

Next, The Countess visited a Sir Elly Kadoorie School where Sophie met Queen’s Young Leader, Deane de Menezes, whose project ‘Red is the new Green’ aims to destigmatise menstruation, improve access to menstrual hygiene and ultimately prevent female absenteeism in schools.

photo shared by Diamond Jubilee Trust (@qejubileetrust) via Twitter

In India, it is estimated that over 23 million girls each year drop out of school early due to lack of menstrual hygiene facilities and the stigma surrounding menstruation. Sir Elly Kadoorie School is one of 30 locations where Deane is working.

photo shared by Diamond Jubilee Trust (@qejubileetrust) via Twitter

There, The Countess met girls and their mothers who have benefited from awareness raising sessions that Deane’s organisation provides and was shown the low-cost sanitary towel vending machines and incinerators which have helped to bring about a reduction in female absenteeism.

The Countess was also presented with a period pouch which are given to girls at her training sessions to provide them with somewhere clean and safe to keep their pads.

photo shared by Diamond Jubilee Trust (@qejubileetrust) via Twitter – Sophie with Queen’s Young Leaders Deane & Aditya

The Countess then visited Apnalaya health centre. Apnalaya, (Our Space in English), is a non-profit organization, founded in 1973 by Tom Holland. There Sophie met Queen’s Young Leader Aditya Kulkarni whose pioneering ‘Care Mother’ antenatal app has helped to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in India.

photo shared by @UKinMumbai via Twitter

On a walk to his clinic through one of the largest slums in India, Aditya told The Countess about his project. Globally, around 800 women die every day of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 20 per cent of these cases are in India.

photo shared by @UKinMumbai via Twitter

Aditya co-created “CareMother”, a mobile and online platform which enables health workers to provide pregnant women who would otherwise not have been reached with antenatal check-ups at their homes.

photo shared by Apnalaya (@ApnalayaTweets) via Twitter

The Countess met health workers and mothers, and heard how the app has helped women from disadvantaged communities in India access antenatal care. Within the last two years, Aditya and his team have provided affordable care to more than 30,000 pregnant women in over 800 villages in India, Bangladesh and Kenya.

photo shared by Apnalaya (@ApnalayaTweets) via Twitter

At the Centre, The Countess spoke with health workers who use CareMother daily to monitor the health of expectant mothers, as well as women who have used the app to monitor their pregnancy.

photo shared by Apnalaya (@ApnalayaTweets) via Twitter

Apnalaya works with the most marginalized people living in highly under-served slums of Mumbai. The infant mortality rate in the area is 55, while the national rate is 41. Every second child is underweight. 88% of pregnant women in 2015-16 were anaemic. 53% girls do not have more than eight years of education.

photo shared by Apnalaya (@ApnalayaTweets) via Twitter

68% of the families in the area buy drinking water. Only 13.7% females and 54.6% males are employed with majority working as casual labour. The average monthly income of a family is INR 7,802, i.e., about US$ 121 (From Life on the Margin: Charting Realities, Apnalaya Studies, Series I).

For press release about Sophie’s Day 3 of visit to India by Diamond Jubilee Trust click here, for quite detailed Daily Mail’s coverage click here. I will correct the order of visits after CC will become available. I’m working with very limited information.

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HRH’s visit to India – Day 2 Hyderabad & Mumbai

On the second day of her visit to India (30th April), The Countess of Wessex as Vice-Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, in the morning visited the Niloufer Hospital which cares for over 10,000 preterm babies each year.

photo shared by Andrew Fleming (@Andrew007Uk) via Twitter

This institution was founded in 1949 by the Princess Niloufer. Princess Niloufer was the daughter of king of Ottoman Empire and was married to prince Moazzam Jah- son of the last Asaf Jahi ruler in 1931.

photo shared by Andrew Fleming (@Andrew007Uk) via Twitter

Just like Florence nightingale, the princess had a liking to serve the poor and also took to serving the poor as a nurse. In 1949, one of the princess’ maids died during childbirth due to lack of medical facilities.

photo shared by Forus Health (@forus_health) via Twitter

On hearing this news, the princess was very shattered. She then decided to ensure that no mother faces death hereafter. Princess Niloufer made known to her father-in-law the problems arising due to this lack of medical facilities.

photo shared by Spectrum Ophthalmics (@SpectrumOphtha1) via Twitter

Established in 1953 as a 100 bedded hospital, presently it has bed strength of 500 with advanced maternity, pediatric, pediatric surgery supported by excellent diagnostic facilities.

photo shared by Forus Health (@forus_health) via Twitter

After Andrew Fleming (@Andrew007Uk) via Twitter:

With about 300 births a day (they claim the highest) the staff take ROP seriously & ensuring eye screening happens where and when needed.

Before the Trust’s programme launched in 2015, there were no screening & treatment services for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) at Niloufer Hospital. Today, all preterm babies born at the hospital are screened for ROP as part of their standard care.⁣

photo shared by UK in Hyderabad via Twitter

During her visit, The Countess of Wessex met mothers and their babies in the Kangaroo Care Ward. HRH learnt more of the care given to premature babies and how and when they are screened and treated for retinopathy of prematurity.

photo shared by UK in Hyderabad via Twitter

Sophie also met parents and children affected by ROP at a support group, including 3 year old Rishita, who was born at just 28 weeks weighing 650g, along with Dr Yadaiah who battled to save Rishita’s life and later her sight when she developed ROP.

photo shared by the Royal Family

During her visit to the hospital, The Countess saw the impact of programmes supported by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, which includes training modules and education to improve quality of preterm care in neonatal intensive care units and ongoing support groups for parents who have a child affected by Retinopathy of prematurity, a condition exclusive to premature babies which can lead to irreversible blindness without treatment.

photo shared by UK in Hyderabad via Twitter

The Countess of Wessex donated two Forus NEOs to Niloufer Hospital and Ghandia Hospital. The donation came on behalf of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, with eight more NEOs set to be donated to other government hospitals across the country.

Speaking about the Trust’s work in India, the Countess said:

We have come a long way from identifying Retinopathy of Prematurity (RoP) as our area of focus to seeing the region-wide change that the Trust has been able to bring about with different stakeholders. The technology is available and the capability of people is clearly visible. What is needed now to treat avoidable blindness in pre-term babies is to upscale work already being done by eye care specialists.

photo shared by Andrew Fleming (@Andrew007Uk) via Twitter

In the afternoon, Her Royal Highness attended a Meeting with Sri Shailendra Kumar Joshi (Chief Secretary to the Government of Telangana) at Telangana Secretariat, Hyderabad. I cannot find anything about this meeting.

photo shared by Crispin Simon (@CrispinSimon) via Twitter

In the evening, The Countess of Wessex attended a Welcome Dinner at the Chambers of Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai. Dinner was hosted by Crispin Simon – British Deputy High Commissioner in Mumbai/Western India.

Coverage about HRH’s visit here & here.

PS Tomorrow I’m travelling to have a few days off, not sure if I will be posting during my time abroad. If not, I will update the rest of the tour after coming back home.

Outfit & jewellery:
If someone is bored, please do the list for me!

HRH’s visit to India – Day 1 at Hyderabad

Yesterday, 29th April, The Countess of Wessex has started her visit to India as Vice Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. It is HRH’s final overseas tour as Vice-Patron ahead of the Trust’s planned closure in January 2020.

photo shared by UK in Hyderabad via Twitter

During her visit, The Countess will see how the work of the charitable foundation has supported to tackle avoidable blindness in babies born prematurely and hear about the impact of programmes successfully launched by Queen’s Young Leaders.

photo shared by Andrew Fleming (@Andrew007Uk) via Twitter

Her Royal Highness is visiting Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi from Monday 29th April to Friday 3rd May. Yesterday in the morning HRH arrived at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. Mr Alexander Stonor is in attendance.

photo shared by UK in Hyderabad via Twitter

Upon the arrival, HRH was received by Mr Andrew Fleming (British Deputy High Commissioner to the Republic of India). The Countess later attended a Reception at the Taj Krishna Hotel in Hyderabad.

On her first day, The Countess of Wessex visited two hospitals across Hyderabad to see first-hand the work the Trust has helped to establish to prevent premature babies from losing their sight.

photo © GMB Akash/Panos Pictures for British High Commission, New Delhi, shared via Flickr, used here under CC license

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a major cause of childhood blindness affecting thousands of preterm babies born in India – home to the highest number of preterm births in the world.

photo shared by Andrew Fleming (@Andrew007Uk) via Twitter

First, HRH visited Gandhi Medical College and Hospital to see the Special Newborn Care Unit. Gandhi Medical College, originally named People’s Medical College, was founded on 14 September 1954.

photo shared by the Royal Family

At Gandhi The Countess watched the ROP screening programme in action. Premature babies are often given oxygen in the incubator to survive, but too much oxygen is highly toxic and can lead to total and irreversible sight loss.

photo © GMB Akash/Panos Pictures for British High Commission, New Delhi, shared via Flickr, used here under CC license

At the Special Unit, The Countess saw babies being carefully monitored to prevent ROP. HRH met with ophthalmologists, paediatricians and nurses who have all been trained under the Trust’s programme to provide the high level of care required to prevent blindness occurring in these early and most fragile days of life.

photo shared by the Royal Family

Screening for retinopathy of prematurity should continue every 1-2 weeks until the risk has passed or the baby receives urgent treatment. The Countess visited mothers & their babies who are being carefully monitored by health professionals at Gandhi Medical College & Hospital.

photo © GMB Akash/Panos Pictures for British High Commission, New Delhi, shared via Flickr, used here under CC license

In the afternoon The Countess visited LV Prasad Eye Institute –  a Centre of Excellence in the prevention of blindness. The Institute was established in 1987 as a not-for-profit, non-government eye care institution.

photo shared by the Royal Family

The mission of LVPEI is to provide “equitable and efficient eye care to all sections of society.” There Sophie re-met with Dr Jalali, Dr who to date has saved the sight of over 20,000 babies, & spoke about the improvements that have come about to save the sight of thousands of preterm babies across India.

photo shared by the Royal Family

Dr Subhadra Jalali is a world leader in ROP who has been instrumental in the delivery of the Trust’s programme She is training teams across the country and internationally.

photo © GMB Akash/Panos Pictures for British High Commission, New Delhi, shared via Flickr, used here under CC license

Speaking to trainees at the hospital, The Countess said:

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Jalali a few weeks ago in London. To come here and see for myself what you are doing, is fantastic… you are creating a lasting legacy. The Trust has always wanted a legacy that will last on into the future and this is what you are doing. It is going to have a huge impact on the lives of thousands of children long into the future.

From Maharashtra in the west down to Tamil Nadu in the south, LVPEI are training ophthalmologists, nurses and health staff across India to detect and treat ROP. That’s why HRH joined a video conference with staff from some of those regional hospitals to hear about their experiences.

photo shared by LVPEI (@lvprasadeye) via Twitter

The Countess also interacted with the Paediatric and the ROP team of LVPEI and discussed the way forward. Later Sophie attended a Lunch with staff and government officials at LV Prasad Eye Institute.

photo © GMB Akash/Panos Pictures for British High Commission, New Delhi, shared via Flickr, used here under CC license

In the evening The Countess of Wessex attended a Reception at the Residence of the British Deputy High Commissioner to the Republic of India.

photo shared by Andrew Fleming (@Andrew007Uk) via Twitter

When last year Andrew Fleming was in Karimnagar, he promised India’s first cadre of trainee midwives a reception when they graduated. He wrote via Twitter: “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine HRH The Countess of Wessex, in Hyderabad as Vice Patron of @qejubileetrust, would be Chief Guest. Thanks ma’am 🙏🏻.”

photo shared by Indie Kaur (@indiek1) Director of Midwifery, Fernandez Hospital Foundation, India.

That’s why The Countess met the group of nurses, now trained specifically to deliver exceptional maternity care to women and newborns, at a reception hosted by Andrew Fleming.

photo shared by the Royal Family

The professional midwifery “Promise” programme has been created by The Fernandez Hospital’s Educational and Research Foundation, in partnership with the Government of Telangana (India) and UNICEF-Hyderabad (India).

Usually babies in India are delivered by trained nurses who perform a midwifery function. This group of women are the first dedicated professionally qualified midwives. It is a significant step in improving antenatal and maternity care.

Following on from the success of the programme, Fernandez Hospital Foundation is looking to expand the programme and India’s Central Government and the World Health Organisations are now looking to develop this model of care all across India.

On her first day of visit to India, Sophie sent a personal message via Twitter: “I was so thrilled to see the work supported by @qejubileetrust in action today screening & saving premature babies’ sight from Retinopathy of Prematurity. Congratulations to @MoHFW_INDIA, @thePHFI & the Trust for creating this remarkable legacy for the people of India. – Sophie.”

For Royal Family coverage, click here. Diamond Jubilee Trust’s coverage is here. Lovely article about Sophie’s visit can be found here. Coverage by Daily Mail is here. Also great to see Tim Rooke with Sophie in India.

Outfit & jewellery:
New red blouse, I believe custom design by Aross Girl.
New trousers, cannot find those.
Tiffany ‘citrine’ earrings.
Citrine pendant by Heavenly Necklaces.
Skagen Nicoline watch.
Clutch bag by Sophie Habsburg.
New, Penelope Chilvers Jackie Leather Sandals.

Evening:
Brooke Dress in Apple Green with Pale Blue Belt, by Aross Girl.
Earrings seen before, no ID.
Citrine necklace by Heavenly Necklaces.
Tiffany T bracelet.
Skagen Nicoline watch
Clutch by Sophie Habsburg in Lunatic style.
New, Tango suede shoe in TAN/ULTRAVIOLET by Penelope Chilvers.

 

HRH’s visit to New York – Day 2

On the second day of the visit to New York, The Countess of Wessex (in the morning) attended a Breakfast Meeting on women, peace and security at the Residence of the United Kingdom Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Her Excellency Dame Karen Pierce) in New York City.

photo Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon (@tariqahmadbt) shared via Twitter

Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon (@tariqahmadbt): “When women participate in conflict resolution it’s 50% more likely to succeed. Delighted to start #CSW63 by co-hosting UNSC members & NGOs with HRH The Countess of Wessex for a discussion on support for women peacebuilders.”

photo Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon (@tariqahmadbt) shared via Twitter

HRH and Lord Ahmad met with activists, UN experts and fellow UN Security Council members for a discussion on supporting women building peace at the grassroots level. Her Royal Highness later attended a Conference on peace, security and human rights at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

photo by UK at the UN (@UKUN_NewYork) shared via Twitter

UK at the UN (@UKUN_NewYork): “as HRH The Countess of Wessex listens to the experiences of women who defend human rights in Colombia, Yemen & Chechnya, the consensus at CSW63 was that the international community must redouble efforts to create a safe space for Women Human Rights Defenders.”

photo shared by the Royal Family

At the President of the General Assembly’s ‘Women in Power’ event, The Countess gave a speech on the challenges facing women’s participation and leadership, the role and responsibility of the UN & the Women, Peace and Security Agenda initiative, to help give women a voice. In her speech HRH said:

As I suggested to an all-male board on a recent trip, if all the seats at the table are full, you just need to pull up an extra chair.

This is my first visit to CSW and my first opportunity to see the UN in action on these issues. It has made me even more determined to use my position to break down the silence around sexual violence, and I will champion women’s full and meaningful participation in peace processes, as part of my wider support for implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

Full speech can be found here. Video of HRH’s speech is here (it starts at about 3 h 20 min.

Gillian Bird (@AustraliaUN): “@KellyODwyer gets a chance at #CSW63 to congratulate HRH The Countess of Wessex on a fantastic statement on #genderequality and talk to her about women’s economic security and #WESStatement.”

photo by Gillian Bird (@AustraliaUN) shared via Twitter

The Countess of Wessex afterwards attended a Roundtable Discussion on the “Future of Women’s Leadership” at the UN Headquarters.

photo Sam Grout-Smith (@SamGroutSmith) shared via Twitter

Her Royal Highness this afternoon attended a Lunch with the Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Co-Chairman, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security) at the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations, One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York City.

photo Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon (@tariqahmadbt) shared via Twitter

The Countess of Wessex later attended a Meeting with the Dr Denis Mukwege Foundation at the United Nations Headquarters. The Countess met survivors, advocates and UN representatives to learn more about what is being done across the world to support women.

photo Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon (@tariqahmadbt) shared via Twitter

The Countess attended a panel discussion with Tatiana Mukanire from the Mukwege Foundation. “Survivors’ voices need to be at the heart of the global effort to end sexual violence in conflict.”

photo by UK at the UN (@UKUN_NewYork) shared via Twitter – HRH embraces Tatiana Mukanire – survivor of Sexual Violence in Conflict

Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon (@tariqahmadbt): “The UK is committed to putting survivors of conflict-related sexual violence at the heart of our policy. Honoured to attend @MukwegeFound and Belgium event alongside HRH The Countess of Wessex to discuss a holistic approach to supporting survivors.”

photo by Alya Ahmed Saif Al Thani (@AmbAlyaAlThani) – HRH with Al Mayassa Al Thani

In the evening, The Countess attended a Commonwealth Day Reception to mark the 70th anniversary of modern Commonwealth. At the reception, The Countess spoke of having “huge pride in being a part of this incredible family of nations.”

As you all know, the Commonwealth is something that is close to the hearts of all members of the Royal Family. We take huge pride in being a part of this incredible family of nations headed by Her Majesty The Queen, who has been stalwart in her leadership, taking a close personal interest for many years and instilling the whole family with the same respect and interest she has shown throughout her reign.

Therefore I am delighted to be with you to celebrate such a special day.

Read The Countess’ full speech at the Commonwealth Day Reception at the Office of the Commonwealth here.

At the reception, The Countess also reaffirmed her commitment to champion women’s full and meaningful participation in peace processes.

photo shared by the Royal Family via Twitter

The Countess of Wessex later departed from John F Kennedy International Airport, New York City, for the United Kingdom.

The Countess’ visit to New York followed on from pledging support on IWD19 to further the UK efforts on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS) and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI).

Royal family’s coverage can be found here. I’m afraid HRH’s visit wasn’t covered at all by media. The coverage by Royal family is also very limited.

Outfit – not that important.

HRH attends Opening Ceremony of CSW at the UN’s Headquarters in New York

In the afternoon of the 10th March, The Countess of Wessex departed from Heathrow Airport in London, for the New York in United States of America. Mr Alexander Stonor and Mrs Angus Galletley were in attendance.

On the next day, in the morning, The Countess of Wessex attended a Breakfast Meeting at the Residence of the United Kingdom Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Her Excellency Dame Karen Pierce) in New York City.

Karen Pierce became the UK’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York in March 2018. She is the first woman to be given the most prestigious post in the British diplomatic service since the UN’s formation in 1945.

photo by Stroud High School (@StroudHigh) shared via Twitter

A group of Stroud High School students were invited to meet with HRH The Countess of Wessex at the UK Missìon – HRH spent 40 minutes with the students and they discussed a range of complex issues relating to gender inequality. HRH generously answered some pertinent questions, posed and stated that she wished she could have had more time with them.

photo by UK at the UN (@UKUN_NewYork) shared via Twitter

Her Royal Highness later attended the Opening Ceremony of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN’s Headquarters in New York City. CSW has been described as the UN organ promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.

photo by @BGIPU – The British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union, shared via Twitter

The UNCSW was established in 1946 as a mechanism to promote, report on and monitor issues relating to the political, economic, civil, social and educational rights of women. It was a unique official structure for drawing attention to women’s concerns and leadership within the UN.

photo by @WAGGGSdelegates –  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, shared via Twitter

Later in the afternoon, The Countess of Wessex attended the United Kingdom’s Non-Governmental Organisation’s Reception given by the United Kingdom Permanent Representative to the United Nations at the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations, One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

photo by @BGIPU – The British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union, shared via Twitter

Her Royal Highness later received Ms Esther Dingemans (Director, the Dr Mukwege Foundation) and Ms Elizabeth Bohard (Co-Director, Nadia’s Initiative) at the Residence of the United Kingdom Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

photo by UK at the UN (@UKUN_NewYork) shared via Twitter

During CSW63, HRH The Countess of Wessex met with survivors and advocates working to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war with Mukwege Foundation & Nadia’s Initiative – initiatives founded by Nobel Peace Prize winners Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad.

The Countess of Wessex afterwards received Ms Pramila Patten (United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict) at the United Nations Headquarters.

To learn more about the Opening of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), click here, and also here.

Outfit & jewellery:
New, The Brooke Dress in Apple Green w/ Pale Blue Belt, by Aross Girl.
Some dark blue blazer.
TBU.

Commonwealth Day 2019 with interview by HRH

On the 11th March 2019, people in Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific and Europe observed the Commonwealth Day. The day was celebrated with a broad range of activities, including faith and civic gatherings, debates, school assemblies, flag raising ceremonies, street parties, cultural events and a multicultural, multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey.

print screen of BBC video

The theme for 2019 is ‘A Connected Commonwealth’, which offers opportunities for the people, governments and institutions of this richly diverse family of nations to connect and work together at many levels through far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth.

HRH’s letter – click on photo to read an online version of the letter

Since HRH couldn’t attend the service as she travelled to New York to take part in Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, The Countess of Wessex has written a letter to the people of Malawi – congratulating them on removing the risk of trachoma. HRH is Vice-Patron of Queen Jubilee Trust, which works across the Commonwealth to end avoidable blindness.

photo shared by the Royal Family via Twitter

Today marks two years since Queen Jubilee Trust’s Vice-Patron HRH visited Malawi to see the work of the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative in action. During her visit, The Countess met Safira, now aged 14. Like many school children across Malawi, Safira has played a significant role in the country’s efforts to eliminate trachoma by teaching her community about the dangers of the disease and how to prevent it. To learn more about Safira, and her story since meeting HRH, click here.

photo DiamondJubileeTrust (@qejubileetrust) shared via Twitter

Malawi is the first country within the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative to have reduced the prevalence of the disease to under 5% of the population – a huge milestone in its journey to wipe out the disease in its entirety. In her letter, The Countess wrote:

I am delighted to hear the news that it is now official: Malawi has removed the risk of trachoma across the country.

For millennia, trachoma has blighted the lives of millions. Slowly and painfully, people lose their sight. They become unable to leave their homes, go to work and provide for their families. Children miss school as they have to stay at home to care for their relatives. Communities are trapped in a cycle of poverty, moving from one generation to the next.

But now trachoma is preventable and treatable. With leadership and a concerted effort over several years, it can be eliminated.

Also today, an interview with The Countess of Wessex on her work to champion the elimination of avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth was aired as part of A Service of Celebration for the Commonwealth on BBC One. You will fine the video on The Commonwealth official website, click here – it’s titled Commonwealth Day BBC One feature. For video of the service attended by the Royal family, click here. For press release by the Trust on HRH’s letter, click here.

The Earl & Countess of Wessex visit Lithuania

Here’s summary on The Earl & Countess of Wessex’s final day of their Baltic Tour. Today, TRHs arrived to Lithuania not only to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the re-establishment of the State of Lithuania, but also to commemorate more than a century lasting relations between the United Kingdom and Lithuania.

Photo via The President of Lithuania official website – click on pic to view full gallery

After arrival at the airport and welcome ceremony by dignitaries, The Earl & Countess went to the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, where Their Royal Highnesses were officially welcomed by President Dalia Grybauskaitė – Lithuanian politician serving as the fifth and current President of Lithuania since 2009.

Photo via The President of Lithuania official website – click on pic to view full gallery

She is the first woman to hold the position and became in 2014 the first President of Lithuania to be reelected for a second consecutive term. She was Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance, also European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget from 2004 to 2009. She is often referred to as the “Iron Lady” or the “Steel Magnolia”. Press release is here.

Photo via The President of Lithuania official website – click on pic to view full gallery

Afterwards, TRHs visited Vilnius University, where The Earl and Countess were given a tour of the library. In the beautiful Hall of Pranciškus Smuglevičius at the Vilnius University Library, The Earl and Countess were shown historic items in the collection. Founded in 1570, the library is the oldest in Lithuania and is home to 5.4 million documents.

photo via @ukinlithuania Twitter feed

During the visit at the Vilnius University, a book by Geoffrey Chaucer was presented to the Vilnius University Library (Royal Family on Twitter didn’t specify who offered this gift). Chaucer was the first British author to mention Lithuania, in the C14th. Today, cultural and literary cooperation between the UK and Lithuania is continuously growing.

photo shared by the Royal Family via Twitter

Vilnius University is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Northern Europe. It is the largest university in Lithuania. The university was founded in 1579 as the Jesuit Academy (College) of Vilnius by Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, Stephen Báthory. It was the third oldest university (after the Cracow Academy and the Albertina) in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

photo shared by the Royal Family via Twitter

Then, there were solo engagaments for TRHs. The Earl of Wessex as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation attended a Lunch and Reception at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, for young people who have reached the Gold Standard in the Award.

photo via @ukinlithuania Twitter feed

HRH celebrated the achievements of the scheme in Lithuania by presenting five gold awards – the highest standard, which The Earl achieved himself in 1986. The scheme was established in Lithuania in 2006 when The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh – who founded @DofE in 1956 – visited the country. The award scheme has been in Lithuania for over a decade, with over 750 participants having developed leadership, skills and confidence along the way.

photo via @ukinlithuania Twitter feed

Meanwhile the Countess of Wessex attended a lunch at Stikliai Restaurant with 6 successful Lithuanian business women. HRH is a patron to a number of charities and organisations, including 100WF initiative, supporting empowerment of women at every stage of their careers.

photo via Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs flickr account – click on pic to view full gallery

Then TRHs visited Antakalnis Cemetery, where The Earl & Countess honoured the memory of Lithuania’s Freedom Fighters of 1991. The Baltic states, including Lithuania, were forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. The Lithuanian Republic declared independence from the Soviet Union on 11 March 1990, and thereafter underwent a difficult period of emergence.

photo via Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs flickr account – click on pic to view full gallery

The January Events took place in Lithuania between 11 and 13 January 1991 in the aftermath of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania. As a result of Soviet military actions, 14 civilians were killed and 702 were injured. The events were centered in its capital, Vilnius, along with related actions in its suburbs and in the cities of Alytus, Šiauliai, Varėna, and Kaunas.

photo via Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs flickr account – click on pic to view full gallery

Also, a wreath was laid by Officers of the Guard of Honour in remembrance of those who died in the fight for Lithuanian Independence. The Lithuanian Wars of Independence, refer to three wars Lithuania fought defending its independence at the end of World War I: with Bolshevik forces (December 1918 – August 1919), Bermontians (June 1919 – December 1919), and Poland (August 1920 – November 1920). The wars delayed international recognition of independent Lithuania and the formation of civil institutions.

photo via Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs flickr account – click on pic to view full gallery

Then, The Earl & Countess attended a Reception at the British Embassy Vilnius, it was a celebration of the historic links between the UK and Lithuania at an exhibition hosted at the British Embassy: “SUKurti tiLTai: Jungtinės Karalystės ir Lietuvos Respublikos ryšiai 1918-1940” (Bridges Created: Relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Lithuania in 1918-1940). Exhibition was officially opened by TRHs and Linas Linkevicius – Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Today’s visit ended with a Dinner at the Presidential Palace, hosted by the President of Lithuania.

Outfit & jewellery:
Max Mara Biavo belted camel hair midi dress.
Black pashmina.
New UFO earrings.
Maison Birks maple pendant.
UFO pearl bracelet.
Clutch bag by Sophie Habsburg Design.
Watch by Chanel.
Prada suede boots.