“When girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures.”
Amidst the baby bump, beach shots, flower garlands, Harry in a Hawaiian shirt and those umbrella pics, it would be easy to forget that a royal tour is about more than just photo ops. But during her visit to Australasia, Meghan Markle has made clear that she’s there to be heard – not just seen.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first royal tour, visiting Australia, Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand, has a strong focus on women’s rights. As a result, it’s no surprise that Meghan’s first speech on the trip championed the importance of education for women and girls.
Addressing staff and students at the University of the South Pacific in the Fijian capital of Suva, the Duchess of Sussex opened her speech with the traditional Fijian greeting: “Bula vinaka!”
Meghan told the audience that education was an essential part of women’s empowerment.
“Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive,” she said. “And for women and girls in developing countries, this is vital.
“When girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but for all of those around them.
“And while progress has been made in many areas across the Commonwealth, there is always scope to offer more opportunities to the next generation of young adults, and specifically to young women.”
The Duchess of Sussex also announced two new grants to Fiji National University and the University of South Pacific, which will fund workshops designed to empower female staff at the universities.
Without special funding, Meghan explained, her own university education would not have been possible – adding that she was “fully aware of the challenges” of affording higher education.
“It was through scholarships, financial aid programs and work-study – where my earnings from a job on campus went directly towards my tuition – that I was able to attend university,” she said.
“And, without question, it was worth every effort.”
Reminiscing about her own time at Northwestern University in Illinois, where she studied theatre and international studies, the Duchess of Sussex sang the praises of higher education.
“As a university graduate, I know the personal feeling of pride and excitement that comes with attending university,” she said.
“From the moment you receive your acceptance letter to the exams you spend countless late nights studying for, the lifelong friendships you make with your fellow alumni to the moment that you receive your diploma, the journey of higher education is an incredible, impactful and pivotal one.”
A former UN Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership, the Duchess of Sussex has been a vocal feminist from the get-go. Aged 11, she successfully challenged consumer goods goliath P&G on a sexist commercial.
Since marrying Prince Harry, she has broken royal protocol by wearing all-black in support of the Time’s Up movement, and chose to support women affected by the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy as her first solo royal project.
Meghan’s words, actions and choices continue to make her exactly what the royal family needed in our eyes. And if we didn’t already appreciate her enough, imagining her covering her university tuition by stacking books in the campus library has pretty much sealed the deal.