Meghan Markle is forever the subject of tabloid fodder, online trolls and water-cooler catch-ups. Like any new royal, she’s polarising but one thing that cannot be criticised is her philanthropic work which dates back to well before she met Prince Harry.
In new, unseen footage from World Vision in January 2017, the then Suits star visits India where she was campaigning for proper restrooms for young girls in schools. As the system sat, girls could not attend school while they were menstruating meaning they would miss up to a week of education every month. The solution was to build bathrooms. “What we found is that the enrolment at this school went up three times as much once the latrines were built so that girls had access to clean hygiene and bathroom facilities while they’re at school,” Markle explains in the video.
This may not be the first time you have heard Markle speak about this issue. Upon returning home to the United States after her trip, the actress posted a lengthy opinion article in TIME magazine titled “How Periods Affect Potential”. Intelligent, succinct and with cause, Markle proved she was more than just Rachel Zane from television, even if she did possess the same intellect and ambition.
“Imagine a world where the female leaders we revere never achieved their full potential because they dropped out of school at the age of thirteen,” the now-Duchess began at the time. “In the Western world this is challenging to fathom, but for millions of young women globally, this remains their harsh reality for a staggering reason. From sub-Saharan Africa to India, Iran, and several other countries, the stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of access to proper sanitation directly inhibit young women from pursuing an education.”
“During my time in the field, many girls shared that they feel embarrassed to go to school during their periods, ill-equipped with rags instead of pads, unable to participate in sports, and without bathrooms available to care for themselves, they often opt to drop out of school entirely,” she continued.
“Furthermore, with minimal dialogue about menstrual health hygiene either at school or home due to the taboo nature of the subject, many girls believe their bodies are purging evil spirits, or that they are injured once a month; this is a shame-filled reality they quietly endure. All of these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future.”
It would be one of her final pieces she’d write before entering her new life as a Royal. Speaking at the International Women’s Day panel in London this year (next to Australia’s former Prime Minister Julia Gillard), Markle captivated the audience. “I’ve said for a long time you can be feminine and a feminist, you can be masculine. And I think in terms of masculinity you understand that your strength includes knowing your vulnerabilities and your sense of self and security, and your confidence comes from knowing a woman by your side, not behind you, is actually something you should not be threatened about – as opposed you should feel really empowered in having that.”