Sophie tells Saint Lucian school children gender equality is ‘not a competition’
The Countess of Wessex has said gender equality is “not a competition” as she addressed secondary school children on the last day of her Caribbean tour.
Sophie, alongside her husband the Earl of Wessex, took questions from youngsters from six separate Saint Lucian schools on topics such as female empowerment and societal issues.
The visit comes after a full day of engagements in the Soufriere area of the island, where the pair received a mixed reception.
Edward and Sophie initially received a warm welcome to the island during a walkabout in the town, but were soon met by a group of around 10 protesters before a trip to a cocoa plantation.
On Thursday in the country’s capital city of Castries, the couple also visited the Camille Henry Memorial School where they were greeted by a warm round of applause from the primary school children.
Sophie and Edward watched the recital of a poem from Saint Lucian Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, a dance and musical performance from the Vide Bouteille Drummers.
After arriving at their second engagement, the Patricia D James Secondary School, Sophie was asked about female empowerment.
She said: “My views on this are very strong.
“I think girls should be empowered to take our equal place alongside our male colleagues.
“We represent 50% of the population, so why would we not be equal?
“Also, you have to remember, that if you have equality in business and many other areas, the increase in productivity and in the bottom line increases by about 20-25% – so why would you not do it?
“So I encourage you girls to be brave.
“Speak out, learn well, and take your rightful place alongside your brothers”
Asked whether the voices of Caribbean women should be empowered on the international fora, Sophie said: “We all have a lot to learn from each other.
“So in the western world, in the northern hemisphere, we have as much to learn from our Caribbean sisters as we do from each other.
Speak out, learn well, and take your rightful place alongside your brothers
The Countess of Wessex
“So in empowering Caribbean women to have more places on the international fora, gives you a voice and gives you a chance to impact your own countries, as well as impact, positively, ours.
“Sometimes, when we talk about equality, it becomes a competition between men and women.
“That’s not what it should be – because if you give women as much as a rightful place alongside men, men sometimes think ‘what’s going to happen to us? Are girls going to take over? What happens to our jobs?’
“You actually just grow more opportunities. It’s about actually taking everybody with you, and there are more opportunities that come out of that.
“It’s not a competition.”