Meghan married Prince Harry of Wales last Saturday, a royal event that had all of the world chattering. An American, an actress, in the British royal family? But Meghan is much more than just a pretty face – she has been a vocal advocate for women’s empowerment since childhood.
Following his brother’s break with tradition, Prince Harry and Meghan personally selected several charities meaningful to them to support in lieu of wedding gifts. Of the seven charities selected, six were UK-based organisations. We are happy to report that the only beneficiary organisation chosen from outside of the UK was the Myna Mahila Foundation, based in Mumbai.
Founder Suhani Jalota met Meghan in New York in 2016. Impressed by her work, Meghan visited her organisation in Govandi, Mumbai in January 2017 during a World Vision trip to India. While there, Meghan learned about how menstrual health is stigmatised in many countries, including India, and how it hampers girls’ education. She spent two days with the girls and women working at the foundation to learn more about their personal challenges with menstrual hygiene at different ages and how it affects their lives within the slums.
“We were super excited, honoured, and privileged that we were selected as the only organisation outside of the UK for this. This really speaks to the sincerity of the couple for promoting causes that are very important and with grassroot-level organisations that are really small.” – Suhani Jalota, founder of Myna Mahila
This might sound like an odd issue to tackle to people living in the UK, but according to the foundation, 320million women in India do not have access to sanitary pads due to a range of reasons, from difficulty accessing them because of “male-run medical stores, unaffordable costs, and stigma and shame associated with menstruation” to the embarrassment and taboos surrounding menstruation. This results in many women using cloth rags, which are rarely cleaned properly. Without access to hygienic sanitary products, women are vulnerable to bacterial and blood-borne infections.
Matters such as this, unknown to many living in developed nations, as well as the many other obstacles and issues women face globally, are why it’s so important that Meghan continues to use her expanding platform to draw attention to these struggles and empower women globally.
Her approach to charity work is also refreshing. A common trope in the development field is that many volunteers and donors consider their contributions to be what’s “saving lives”, “changing the world”, or “helping women find their voice”, making the work about themselves rather than those in need. But Meghan looks at the work she does as a way to empower women to use the voice they have and encouraging others to listen.
Meghan has made her dedication to humanitarian work clear, writing in Elle UK in 2016: “This type of work is what feeds my soul. The degree to which I can do that both on and off camera is a direct perk of my job.”
While we will miss her contributions to acting, we are excited to see how the princess will generate interest in women’s issues, healthcare, and equality as an advocate for girls and women in India and around the world.