On Friday, The Duchess of Cornwall Camilla attended the Grand Opening of the 10th WOW Festival at the Southbank Centre to deliver a speech on Domestic Violence.
Launched by Jude Kelly in 2010, WOW (Women of the World) Festivals aim to celebrate women and girls by raising awareness of the issues that prevent them from achieving their potential and discussing solutions together.
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Run by The WOW Foundation, to date WOW has reached over two million people in 17 countries on six continents across more than 80 festivals and events including in Australia, Brazil, China, Finland, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK and the USA.
During the event, the Duchess – who is President of Women of the World festival – met speakers on the ‘Domestic Abuse: Everyone’s Problem’ panel, which is made up of campaigners, abuse survivors and Safe Lives pioneers, including CEO Suzanne Jacob.
Camilla also met Gina Miller, the activist who filed the court case against the British Government over its attempt to implement Brexit without Parliament’s approval, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who praised the royal for her efforts to highlight domestic abuse.
The Duchess of Cornwall became President of WOW in 2015, after being involved with the organization since 2010. Camilla launched WOW Australia in Sydney in 2012 and WOW Washington in America in 2015. More recently, the Duchess joined a series of discussions for Women of the World in New Zealand in 2019 and West Africa in 2018.
In her speech for “Domestic Abuse: Everyone’s Problem” panel, Camilla highlighted that domestic abuse is everyone’s problem and so is the solution.
She said: “I find it almost impossible to think that any friend of mine might be living under that horrific threat, without my knowing it, but that is the power of coercive control and violence in the home. It is characterized by silence – silence from those that suffer – silence from those around them, and silence from those who perpetrate abuse.”
“This silence is corrosive; it leaves women, children and men carrying the burden of shame. It prevents them from speaking out about the abuse and it prevents them from getting help. And at its worst it can be fatal.”
Speaking about her work in the field, Camilla said: “Through my work, I have talked to many women who have lived with coercive control and domestic violence and, thankfully, come out at the other end as the victors not the victims.”
“They are some of the bravest people I have ever met. Their stories are harrowing and have reduced even the toughest of their listeners to tears. That is why it is so vital that these survivors should no longer feel any shame or any blame.”
The Duchess of Cornwall also talked about how complicated the issue is saying: “Of course, it is not only men who abuse and it is not only women who are abused. Let’s not forget that this is a complicated issue. And we need to acknowledge that society also plays a part.
“Maybe it’s too simplistic to say that it fosters a culture of violence and early sexualization. But the society in which we live is the backdrop for our behavior. Young people don’t set out to become abusers. We need to teach our young men and women what healthy and loving relationships are, and that it is never ‘OK’ to treat anyone with less than respect.”
Finishing her powerful speech, The Duchess of Cornwall used her first hashtag: “On this tenth anniversary, as WOW’s proud President, it’s a huge pleasure to be here today. But I’m also here as a woman in her seventies, who (as a somewhat ancient technophobe) is not always familiar with some of the jargon younger people use today, but I do know about ‘hashtags’! And now I am using my very first one: #EveryonesProblem. Domestic abuse is everyone’s problem and the solution must be too.”
Clarence House posted tweets, which seemed to have been written by the Royal, to share the event and hashtag, which was trending in the UK.