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The Duchess of Edinburgh shines a light on issue close to her heart in Colombia

Sophie has continued her mission to support women and girls devastated by conflict

Sophie Duchess of Edinburgh at a coffee plantation in Colombia
Emily Nash
Emily NashRoyal EditorLondon
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Bringing warmth, compassion and her dancing shoes, the Duchess of Edinburgh carried a four-day visit to Colombia this week to shine a light on women impacted by war.

Sophie, 58, whose trip came at the request of the UK Government, jetted to Bogota to champion the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

She began her stay by meeting the country’s first Afro-Colombian Vice President Francia Marquez, a celebrated environmental activist and minister of equality and equity.

She then paid a moving visit to the capital’s Centre for Memory, Peace and Reconciliation, where she met survivors of sexual violence committed during Colombia's 52-year internal armed conflict and tenderly hugged the mother of one of its victims.

The conflict between the government, FARC revolutionaries and other guerrilla groups, far-right paramilitaries and crime syndicates has had a disproportionate effect on women and girls, many of whom are survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Wearing a black polka-dot Suzannah dress, the Duchess also joined a discussion with women from the Colombian Armed Forces to hear about their work supporting the UN’s Women, Peace and Security agenda.

Later, Sophie flew south to Cali, where she was persuaded to try out some dance moves at the Somos Pacificos cultural centre.

Duchess of Edinburgh dancing in Colombia© Tim Rooke
Showing off her moves

The following day, the Duchess swapped her heels for walking boots as she visited the Tropicos Fruits of Hope Coffee Farm, to meet former FARC guerrillas who have laid down their weapons to grow the crop since Colombia's historic peace agreement in 2016.

She sampled the coffee and toured the farm’s seed nurseries before visiting the Centre for Research on Tropical Agriculture Seed Bank, which works with Kew Gardens to support sustainable food production.

Sophie Duchess of Edinburgh at seedbank in Colombia© Tim Rooke
Sophie at the Seed Bank

At the Humboldt Institute’s molecular analysis laboratory, she viewed UK DNA sequencing technology which is being used to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

Before leaving Cali, the Duchess enjoyed a dance performance at La Licorera, the city's cultural centre for dance and choreography and met young people taking part in the British Council’s Dance and Peace programme, which provides opportunities for those impacted by the armed conflict.

Sophie watching © Tim Rooke
The Duchess watching a performance at La Licorera

Back in Bogota, she hosted a meeting of peacebuilders and survivors of conflict-related sexual violence ahead of Colombia’s year as Chair of the International Alliance on PSVI (Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative) in 2024, which aims to address the root causes, hold perpetrators to account, deliver justice for survivors and support to children born as a result.

Sophie in cream shirt dress in Colombia© Tim Rooke
The Duchess joined a roundtable discussion

Finally, Sophie sat in the front row of a Peace and Sustainable Fashion showcase at the British ambassador's residence, which featured the work of designers impacted by the conflict, including former combatants and survivors.

In a speech, the Duchess, who is Patron of the London College of Fashion, said: "This Fashion show illustrates that peace-building and environmental sustainability can go hand in hand. The designs we are about to see are powerful examples of how sustainable fashion can drive positive change. 

"And behind today’s collection are skilled hands and stories of people whose lives have been touched by conflict. It not only represents a fusion of fashion and environmental responsibility but also serves as a celebration of the resilience and creativity of those who crafted it."

Watching a fashion show at the British Residence© Tim Rooke
Watching a fashion show at the British Residence

She said of her focus on survivors of sexual violence: “It is clear much work needs to still be done to support them and the many thousands whose lives have been devastated, and my hope is that we have shone a spotlight on the need for increased efforts with this desperate issue.”

She ended her speech by saying: “We live at a time when we need imagination and courage to address our greatest challenges, and as I draw near to the conclusion of my visit to Colombia, I feel a great sense of hope that we all have the capability to protect our environment and to create lasting peace. With hard work, science and creativity, we can sustain this world for generations to come."

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