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WOMEN+POWER 2023: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

We were scanning through Netflix last night for something to watch when “Suits” appeared in the Top 10 Most Watched List. “Suits” has been off the air since 2017. “That really says something about the sustaining interest (in Meghan Markle),” my dinner companion remarked.

There’s something about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, that pulls you in; whether you love to love her or love to hate her (research shows social media is pretty evenly divided). But that’s exactly what has made her a household name and given her an unbelievable platform. Sure, we’ve put on her a pedestal – a princess can’t fail at anything, right? – and her naysayers have laughed loudly when she has tripped up or been misguided, but take into consideration that we’re talking about one mixed-race 41-year-old mother of two. Her accomplishments, her patronages, her projects and her advocacy rival that of any of her contemporaries.

Here are 10 times that Meghan Markle trailblazed feminism through the years.

Fighting Sexism in Marketing

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, was inspired to change a TV commercial at the age of 11, after seeing a Procter & Gamble commercial that advertised its Ivory dishwashing soap solely to women. The commercial for the soap struck her as unfair and insensitive when she heard, “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.”

“I don’t think it’s right for kids to grow up thinking these things, that just Mom does everything,” the then 11-year-old said during an interview with Nick News. Meghan decided to write to the company and asked them to change their slogan from “women all over America” to “people all over America” — and the company did.

Fighting Sexualization

During her seven seasons on “Suits,” she spoke out when she felt her character was continuously sexualized. During the One Young World conference in Dublin, she once said: “This season, every script seemed to begin with ‘Rachel enters wearing a towel.’ And I said, ‘No, not doing it anymore.’ I called the creator and I said, ‘It’s just gratuitous, we get it, we’ve already seen it once.’ So I think at a certain point you feel empowered enough to just say ‘No’.”

Standing Against the Stigma of Menstruation

In 2017, Meghan penned a powerful essay for Time on the stigma surrounding menstruation in the developing world. “I traveled to Delhi and Mumbai with World Vision to meet girls and women directly impacted by the stigmatization of menstrual health and to learn how it hinders girls’ education,” she wrote. “One 113 million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health.”

She added that girls feel embarrassed and ill equipped, causing them to stop going to school. “Wasted opportunity is unacceptable with stakes this high,” Meghan said. “To break the cycle of poverty, and to achieve economic growth and sustainability in developing countries, young women need access to education.”

Appearing at the United Nations

Meghan appeared at the U.N. Women’s conference on International Women’s Day 2015 and gave a speech on gender equality that was truly inspiring.

“UN Women, as you guys know, has defined the year 2030 as the expiration date for gender inequality,” she said. “And here’s what’s staggering — the studies show that at the current rate, the elimination of gender inequality won’t be possible until 2095. That’s another 80 years from now. And when it comes to women’s political participation and leadership the percentage of female parliamentarians globally has only increased by 11 percent since 1995. Eleven percent in 20 years? Come on. This has to change. Women make up more than half of the world’s population and potential, so it is neither just nor practical for their voices, for our voices, to go unheard at the highest levels of decision-making.”

Making her Voice Heard

Just a few months ahead of her royal wedding, Meghan used her platform to encourage people to listen to women. “I hear a lot of people speaking about girls’ empowerment and women’s empowerment — you will hear people saying they are helping women find their voices,” she said in 2018 alongside Prince Harry, Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, at the first annual Royal Foundation Forum. “I fundamentally disagree with that because women don’t need to find their voices, they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.”

Her Wedding Day Statement

After her father was unable to attend her May 2018 wedding to Prince Harry, Meghan struck a powerful image as she walked down the aisle unaccompanied. Although Prince Charles escorted her part of the way down the aisle, no one «gave her away» to her new husband.

Supporting Suffrage

In New Zealand, Meghan celebrated New Zealand’s 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. “We are proud to be able to join you tonight in celebrating the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in your country,” Meghan said. “The achievements of the women of New Zealand who campaigned for their right to vote, and were the first in the world to achieve it, are universally admired. In looking forward to this very special occasion, I reflected on the importance of this achievement, but also the larger impact of what this symbolizes.”

Encouraging Women’s Education

During Meghan's and Prince Harry’s 2018 tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, the Duchess of Sussex took the mic at the University of the South Pacific for her first royal tour speech, focusing on the topic of education. “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.”

Empowering other Women

During a 2019 royal visit to South Africa, she gave an inspiring speech. “On one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of the royal family, I want you to know that for me, I am here as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of color and as your sister. I am here with you, and I am here for you.”

Mentoring a Younger Generation

In March 2021, Meghan and Prince Harry surprised a teenage girl with a virtual mentoring session. “It was really significant for her because they saw her potential in a few short minutes, which actually really undid some damage that had been previously caused by a former teacher’s doubt,” L.A. Works Executive Director Deborah Brutchey said. “It was just amazing how they were able to connect and how their compassion, in just a short conversation, really made an impact and is going to forever inspire her.”


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