Meghan's interests span a number of areas including gender-equality, modern day slavery, children, poverty and health. Her interests are rooted in her childhood when her parents exposed her to the realities of extreme poverty in countries such as Jamaica. Her activism began at just 11 when she forced a soap manufacturer to change an advert which implied women belong in the kitchen. Meghan wrote to a host of high-profile figures including then First Lady Hilary Clinton. Markle is a graduate of the prestigious Northwestern University theatre department, and also holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations from NU. Having worked at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires in 2002, humanitarian issues have always been on her mind. When she landed the role of Rachel Zane on Suits, it provided a platform for her to take on roles in areas of interest she felt passionate about supporting.
When asked how she balances fame and charity work, in a piece for her now defunct lifestyle website the Tig, she wrote:
"My life shifts from refugee camps to red carpets, I choose them both because these worlds can, in fact, coexist. I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches – I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works. And this type of work is what feeds my soul, and fuels my purpose."
Meghan is a counsellor for international charity One Young World, joining recognised leaders such as Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway in the role. One Young World counsellors lend their global stature to the delegates' views and inspire them to create positive change. The organisation was founded in 2009 by David Jones and Kate Robertson. They are a UK-based charity that gathers together the brightest young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. An annual summit is held, during which the most valuable young talent from global and national companies, NGOs, universities and other forward-thinking organisations are joined by world leaders to act as One Young World counsellors.
When asked why she joined the organisation, Meghan said:
'When I was asked to be a Counsellor at One Young World, my response was a resounding “yes.” One Young World invites young adults from all over the world who are actively working to transform the socio-political landscape by being the greater good. They are delegates who are speaking out against human rights violations, environmental crises, gender equality issues, discrimination and injustice. They are the change.'
Meghan participated in the One Young World 2014 Summit where she joined a panel for the 'Bridging the Gap' session. The panel was composed of Beth Comstock, Michelle Phan, Maya Sanbar, Sabine Chalmers and Sheryl Sandberg. Meghan discussed the need "for men to stand up and empower women. You need men to effect that change because at the end of the day, I think what scares people is this idea female empowerment is somehow threatening. No it's not. You empower women, you empower the community".
"In the show for example this season every script seemed to begin with Rachel enters wearing a towel and I said no, I’m not doing it anymore, I’m not doing it,” she said during a debate on gender equality. So I rang the creator and I was like, 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.
I think it’s a challenging thing to do if you don’t know your worth and your value for wanting to speak up. When you’re an auditioning actress years ago so hungry for work, of course you’re willing do things like that. For me, speaking up and being able to say I’m not going to do that anymore, has been a big shift for me personally."
A very special moment in the summit came when Meghan introduced a young Eritrean acitvist, Luwam, who literally ran from bullets to gain her freedom from slavery. Meghan described meeting her as "very emotional because it's just so humbling and she's just so incredible".
Meghan greets One Young World founder Kate Robertson at the Canadian Parliament ahead of the One Young World summit on Ottawa last year.
Meghan with Canadian House of Commons speaker, Geoff Regan.
Arriving for the 2016 opening ceremony with fellow Counsellor, UN Ambassador and good friend James Chau.
The summit gathered 1,300 young leaders from 196 countries around the world to discuss worldwide challenges alongside world leaders from across the globe, and to generate innovative solutions to the world's most pressing issues. The summit was opened by Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, who used the One Young World opening ceremony to launch his Prime Minister’s youth council of fifteen young Canadians, and called on the young leaders present to "make good use of your new global community [at One Young World] and do something great with it". Below, PM Trudeau and Meghan discussing politics and social issues.
In Ottawa, Meghan met Thuli Madonsela, a senior South African lawyer who recently won the Forbes Africa Person of the Year. Speaking to People she said: "What struck me about her was her personality, compassion and her brain. She is extremely bright. I wanted to know why she was involved in helping young people to discover themselves. She encountered some forms of discrimination and awkward moments. When she had this platform, she thought it was her job to make it easier for other young people to discover themselves and lead their fullest life. Apart from being smart, she’s a very balanced, mature, original thinker."
In March, a new photoshoot of the global leaders who attended the One Young World summit in Ottawa was released in Vanity Fair. Below, Meghan with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, poet Fatima Bhutto, and women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, all posed against the backdrop of the Ottawa skyline. In a crisp white dress and Aquazzura pumps, Meghan was in good company alongside the renowned leaders and activists.
One Young World is a wonderful organisation which has attracted support from world leaders, well-known philanthropists and celebrities. Seeing Meghan's involvement, and in particular hearing her views on empowerment, offers an interesting insight into her humanitarian work. In our next post in the series we'll be looking at her other philanthropic efforts.