Sunday, 8 March 2020

"Speak Up For What Is Right" Meghan Surprises Dagenham Students For International Women's Day Event

The Duchess of Sussex surprised students at Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham on Friday afternoon for a special event to mark International Women's Day.


Information on the engagement was released just hours after Harry and Meghan made a glittering appearance at the Mountbatten Festival of Music. The Duchess dazzled in a red cape-effect Safiyaa gown with Simone Rocha earrings, a Manolo Blahnik clutch and Stuart Weitzman pumps. We saw an array of excellent images and videos from the night. Click here to read the full post.


Friday's engagement was kept under wraps to coincide with International Women's Day. We knew Meghan planned to mark the day but details of the exact event were embargoed until now. It was likely Meghan's last solo appearance as a senior royal. Harry and Meghan are due to carry out their last joint engagement before starting a new chapter at Monday's Commonwealth Day service.


I couldn't think of a more fitting engagement for Meghan. Not only was she championing girls and women, she was interacting with young people which has been at the heart of the Sussexes work both at home and in the Commonwealth. Excited students lined the path to greet the Duchess in style.


Meghan greeted students.


Omid Scobie reports:

'For Fiona Addai, 11, presenting flowers to Meghan when she first arrived was a moment she will never forget. “She is my biggest idol,” she said. “She is Black and you don’t normally get that inside the royal family so I hope when I’m older ... she’s taught me no matter what color you are, I am able to do anything any other person can. She’s helped me believe in myself.”

During a sit down with students where Meghan was delighted to receive her very own school jacket, she talked about Archie saying "He's exactly ten months today and he's started trying to walk". She spoke about the importance of motherhood adding Archie "changed my life".


More from The Mail:

'As ever, Meghan had done her homework. When introduced to one of the teenagers in the debating team, she recognised his name from her briefing notes and said: ‘You’re student mayor as well, aren’t you? Impressive.’ 
‘I’m just so proud to be able to witness so much of this activism and this energy that you have in this room,’ she told one group. ‘So well done. You guys are going to do great.' When a pupil explained that she felt a particular connection with a poet’s Sikh heritage. ‘Oftentimes, when it’s someone who looks like you and comes from where you come from, it’s easier to connect,’ replied the Duchess.'

Meghan met students who are preparing for the Model United Nations competition in Budapest.


As the Duchess stood on stage to address 700 students, there was a very memorable moment when she made a specific request. "Before I continue I’m going to go off the cuff here, because I do think what’s really key is there one brave young man in this room, who wants to come and say what he thinks the importance of International Women’s Day is?" 16-year-old Aker Okoye was among a number of boys who raised their hands before Meghan chose him. Needless to say he was very pleased.


He greeted the Duchess, followed by cheers from his classmates. His first words before explaining his thoughts on the importance of equality? "She's really beautiful innit" :)


Impressed by Aker's answer, Meghan replied:

'In many societies, it doesn't matter where you are, it’s very easy to sometimes compartmentalize or silo this idea of International Women’s Day solely being about women - but it’s not - it’s about all of us.'

Meghan told the audience: "No matter how small you might feel, how low you may feel on the ladder or the totem pole, no matter what color you are, no matter what gender you are, you have a voice, and you certainly have the right to speak up for what is right."


Choosing Dagenham for the event had a special meaning - celebrating the achievements of female employees working for Ford's Motor Plant - who held a strike for equal pay in the late 1960s. The women made car seat covers and as stock ran out the strike eventually resulted in a halt to all car production. The action of these women paved the way for the Equal Pay Act in 1970. A film based on the events Made in Dagenham starring Sally Hawkins and Rosamund Pike was released in 2010.


Meghan met one of the women involved in the strike, Geraldine Deer, and referenced their courage in her speech. 

'As you can see with Geraldine and the other women who had the strength to really stand up for something that they knew needed to be done. What’s really key for all of you to remember, is especially looking at the people who paved the way for you to get to this point in your lives to be able to have the access that you do—it’s not just an opportunity to continue that, it’s a responsibility. I encourage and empower each of you to really stand in your truth, to stand for what is right to continue to respect each other.'

More from Meghan's powerful speech:

'When we thought about what I wanted to do for International Women’s Day this year, for me it was incredibly important to be with the women of our future. And that is all of the young women here, as well as the young men who play a very large part in this. Specifically coming to your school made a lot of sense for me because of this social justice and the impact that it’s rooted in.
Your school mantra, as you all know, is ‘Excellence for all, excellence from all.’ So, how does that apply in your minds to International Women’s Day?” she continued. “I think in many ways it’s very much the same thing, this idea of excellence for all and from all, equality for all and from all.
I think that is the point, in many societies it doesn't matter where you are, it’s very easy to sometimes compartmentalize or silo this idea of International Women’s Day solely being about women—but it’s not—it’s about all of us.
For young men, to continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives, and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way. You have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life—protect them. Make sure that they are feeling valued and safe. Let's all rally together to make International Women’s Day something that is not just on Sunday—but frankly, feels like every day of the year.
Thank you so much for having me, it's really a privilege to be here, thank you.'

The Duchess amid a sea of students.


The theme for International Women's Day 2020 is "An equal world is an enabled world".


Students joined Meghan for a photo complete with the #EachforEqual pose.


The Duchess chose a chic smart casual separates look for the visit.


Meghan wore the textured bouclé Belted Fringe Jacket by London based brand Me + Em (with many thanks to Heaven). The £295 collarless jacket features full length sleeves with deep cuffs and an optional belt.


Meghan's bag is the £295 Rejina Pyo Nane Ivory Cotton Weave Bag.


For shoes, it's the Jennifer Chamandi Lorenzo 85 two-tone leather pumps. Described as: "Jennifer Chamandi's 'Lorenzo' pumps have the designer's signature needle stiletto, which she says "creates the curve of the foot and the sway to the hips." This pointed pair has been made in Italy from smooth beige and black leather and is detailed with a slender buckled strap which can be removed." They are available at Net-A-Porter.


Meghan accessorised with her Jessica McCormack Chi Chi Rose Gold bracelet. The brand is supporting Meghan's patronage Smart Works for International Women's Day and hosted a breakfast for the team earlier this week.


Meghan wore the £125 Edge of Ember Kismet Charm Necklace (with thanks to UFO No More). The square Kismet Necklace pairs a four leaf clover with the lucky number 7, signifying good fortune. The brand produces ethically made pieces and works with artisans and craftspeople in Asia. Launched in 2014, their studio opened in London in 2014. As part of their recycle and repurpose programme customers are offered a £20 credit for each eligible item they send. The necklace is in stock on their website.

And her Catbird stacking rings.


Tomorrow, Sussex Royal will be sharing behind-the-scenes videos and photos from the visit. I'll update the post then.

40 comments:

  1. Shantel (@FashionandFaith)8 March 2020 at 04:05

    What an incredible loss for the BRF. Meghan is magic!
    I love this event! These young people will never forget that experience. What a beautiful message/reminder: you matter. In this day and age, hearing those words is so important. We are all equal. We matter. We all deserve respect, and protection. Well done, Meghan!
    Charlotte, thanks for the fabulous coverage. After all of these years, I am still in awe of your work!
    Take care, everyone.
    Shantel
    Minnesota, USA

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  2. She’s such a great role model. I really do feel The RF will be poorer for losing by both of them.

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    1. Same. Her speech was smart and her interactions with the students lovely; a micro example of her continued excellence. -op

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  3. She looks adorable! What she wears is always so interesting as well as attractive. And I love when she "fits in" in a setting -- the great variety of skin tones from dark to white shows how "we" really do not differ. Everyone is somewhere on the spectrum, and it's so nice to see such inclusion. Aside from her beauty, what I like is my feeling that Meghan is just continuing what she has done in the past although perhaps at a scale she only hoped to do in the future. I'm sure she had a positive effect on everyone of those students! I hope this is the sort of thing we can see her do in the future as part of their endeavors. I trust her and Harry to do what is helpful without the perhaps staid guidance of palace aides.

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  4. She looks adorable! What she wears is always so interesting as well as attractive. And I love when she "fits in" in a setting -- the great variety of skin tones from dark to white shows how "we" really do not differ. Everyone is somewhere on the spectrum, and it's so nice to see such inclusion. Aside from her beauty, what I like is my feeling that Meghan is just continuing what she has done in the past although perhaps at a scale she only hoped to do in the future. I'm sure she had a positive effect on everyone of those students! I hope this is the sort of thing we can see her do in the future as part of their endeavors. I trust her and Harry to do what is helpful without the perhaps staid guidance of palace aides.

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  5. I was so moved when I read this post that I shed tears. I hope with all my heart that the couple will quickly make us discover their new projects that I will follow with the same passion and the same interest because they have an incredible aura and charm! Thank you Charlotte for your work. Meghan taught a phenomenal lesson with great Class, great gentleness, great charm and professionalism.

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  6. the duchess Sussex i love her speech as heartwarming and such a strong one

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  7. It was so cute when she called up that young boy and he said "she really is beautiful isn't she?" Awww

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  8. Reading little Fiona Addai comment make me wish the duchess wouldn't step down from being a full time royal. It's just sad :(

    Silvia

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  9. I love she decided on this school event for this day, and that she highlighted the fact that everyone must be involved, not only women! She seems to just shine when she's in that kind of environment: with the Women Center in Canada, with those teenagers who can easily relate to her.
    And her outfit is on point: neutral and no high prices (except this jacket, but even that is not so expensive, at first, I thought it was Chanel, but that would have been inappropriate for the event), I especially love her clutch/bag(?) It is quite original and draws the eye immediately! I am more dubious about the shoes, but it is mostly because I cannot imagine that the strap is comfortable, linked to the heel like that. I do like the fact it can be removed!
    Thank you Charlotte for your incredible work on this week, I hope we will see them more, my guess for the first year is that they will focus on the Invictus Games, and what opportunities can be made to push it further, along with a focus on women and teenagers!

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  10. That's what it is to be Royal. The Duchess of Sussex is all its definition and personification. Her husband, as we are proud of.

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  11. To all mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, nieces, fellow women out there, Happy International Women's Day.
    "Every woman's success should be an inspiration to another. We're strongest when we cheer each other on." - Serena Williams
    To the past generation of women, thank you for blazing the path, to the present be the best you can be and live out your dreams, so we can create a better tomorrow for the future generation.
    - RNC

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  12. Everything about this engagement is perfection...the theme, her genuine interactions with the students, her look, everything. I'm going to miss following her regular engagements as a royal, but I have no doubt she will be as impactful, if not more, in her next role.

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  13. I love the shoes & the bag! It’s so sweet to hear Meghan talk about Archie & how he’s changed her life. He’s almost a year old!

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    1. Wow, a year! Time flies...
      I loved the shoes and the jacket here, and her gift for carrying cool bags is unparalleled! -op

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  14. Honestly, this week HRH delivered and she’s never been more regal doing it.

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  15. Beautiful and a good soul. A very, very impressive woman. Go well Meghan. Live your best life.💕💕💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐

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  16. Just why didn't they do this from the very beginning. This "farewell tour" is a smashing success and it makes me so sad. What went so terribly wrong that they felt they can't just keep on doing EXACTLY this and just work their way up to the universal love and acceptance. They would reach it, eventually, if they tried for more than two years. Sigh. They are brilliant these days. I am so sad. Suddenly Meghan is championing british fashion, visiting local schools, ... What a lost potential these two are. :-(
    Ella

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    1. There is no guarantee that would happen. Let’s just trust that H & M know the best decision for them and their family as sad and disappointing as it may be for those of us on the sidelines. We can only assume what’s best for then. They made the best choice for them.

      Louise

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    2. Ella - She was abused for 2 years (longer if you count the engagement period) and it didn't get any better (it got worse) as time went on. She did great work like this the entire time and the abuse didn't let up. She isn't "suddenly" doing anything that she wasn't already doing. If the family she worked for wouldn't stand up and call out her abusers, then why should she stay? She stuck it out for 2 years which is more than most people would.

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    3. What went wrong? The racist tabloid coverage, for one. It didn't stop when they got engaged and it didn't stop after the wedding. I don't think two more years would have made any difference. The only reason the Daily Fail is being nice to her now is because they are losing their favorite punching bag.

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    4. To Ella. 12:23
      Harry and Meghan have “been doing this” from
      the beginning. Please read the archives of this lovely blog. Our dear Charlotte has done an amazing job of chronicling H&M’s work.
      Meghan is not “suddenly” championing British fashion. She has also done that all along.
      Maybe the rest of us do not know the full extent of the racism and vitriol thrown at them.
      Yes. This “farewell “ is terribly sad.
      Yes. What lost potential.
      Renee

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    5. Hi Ella, I’m pretty sure they visited a school in Nottingham and tend to Invite local school children to various events they attend. Meghan has also been championing British fashion since her engagement tour of the U.K. with Harry.
      Thank you Charlotte for the lovely post. I wish the Duke and Duchess continued love and happiness.

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    6. I agree completely, Ella. Well said.

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    7. I believe what "went so terribly wrong" is that they were bombarded by negative comments from the media right from the very beginning. Lots of negative comments - every hour of every day. And to make matters not one single person in the BRF would step up and say 'enough is enough'. It's high time the "palace" spoke up in support. They have the power to tell the media to just stop. They didn't and they lost 2 valuable assets. It's very sad but I don't blame them. Just looking into the future I can imagine they didn't want this toxic life for their son. I believe Archie is the main reason they decided to get out now.

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    8. I am amazed at the difference in Meghan. She's glowing, she's carefree, she's wearing color!!! I like every outfit she's worn. I can only think she felt intimidated or uncertain in her royal role and didn't receive the support she needed. Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel she's come into her own. If only she could have done that from the beginning. I'm not finding fault with her at all, only wishing things could have been different. I wish her and Harry well, hope they have success, and would love to see them return, at some point, to carry on.

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    9. Exactly. What I have always thought, always said: give it a couple more years, Patience.

      Meanwhile, I have also wondered if the “leave” is a temporary strategy, with its twists and turns of course, to allow for the young couple to become stronger before the challenges they face and garner higher respect, as well as for the country to SEE what they are missing, grow out of its self-imposed limitations, and welcome them back the right way, in strength, and beyond the painful memory of Lady Diana. Only time will tell.

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    10. I firmly believe that it would happen. The press eventually (I dare to say after more than 2 years) turned for Camilla, Charles, Kate and several times over her life even for the Queen. Yes, the press was ruthless, but I think it could have been turned. It was not that bad before their wedding (or rather before the Markles started to speak). The Markles have hurt Meghan terribly.

      To Renee, I have been following the Sussexes closely since their engagement, and even have commented quite a few times here about what I thought were missteps/ mistakes on their part. They did not make these mistakes during this farewell tour. As an example, I can mention overpriced high couture non-british clothes (I don´t like these on any royal), leaks through friends, the "Africa" documentary and some clumsy, if not misleading PR statements. I still can´t get quite on board with Harry choosing to live with regular flights back and forth between America and Europe, which I think is not eco-conscious even though you can offset the flights, and still pursuing the Travalyst initiative.

      What I wanted to say here is that over the years, I have been both amazed and at times not that much impressed by the Sussexes. And this week I was amazed.

      Now seeing them just connect with people and help, I couldn´t help but write my sentiments out. They were on their top game and it was brilliant.
      Ella

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    11. Yes, the press have indeed been ruthless to the royals you mentioned (may I add Fergie to the list?) but at least they had the support of their family. Meghan was alone in the UK and as others have commented several times on previous posts, with no support from the royal family. Also, Meghan is biracial so obviously the other royals did not get the added racial vitriol from the press; they also had no relatives like the Markles.

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    12. They are not perfect but lets give them some credit. I'm sure as any mature adults (especially those in the public sphere) would, Harry and Meghan probably considered if the tide would change in the future and the press would be better. Sadly I feel (even though we're in 2020) that if Meghan had the features and background of an English Rose we wouldn't be talking about this today.

      Ruby UK

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  17. Ella, things may change. Maybe they need some freedom to chose their path. Maybe they will gravitate back to the UK after Archie is older, to help Charles.

    Today, though, Meghan's profile looks like that of a 20-year-old!Allison in US

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    1. Allison, I hope you are right and the situation will somehow develop as you say and after some time off the RF, they will come back to help Charles. Hopefully things will go in such way that it would be possible for everybody involved.
      Ella

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  18. Perfect and thoughtful speech, meaningful interaction with the students - and such a tasteful and modern outfit! Meghan is a very special lady - I shall miss her royal engagements and hope she is very happy in her new life.

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  19. Meghan is a gem. The royal family is losing a great asset on April 1st.

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  20. What a wonderful event! Sigh I wish they weren't leaving. They're so great at what they do. Meghan is warm and personable and would be such a great asset to the BRF. I understand it's their choice but I wish it weren't so. That is all. I love her outfit for this event too.

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  21. The Duchess looks lovely. I just love the jacket, is beautiful, but the two tone shoes, divine. The perfect finishing touch that glorious bag, excellent.

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  22. A great visit. The Duchess looked lovely. The jacket I love. Two tone shoes and clutch are superb choices. I really like the jewellery choices she makes, subtle, delicate pieces always looked beautiful.

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    1. I’m with you Ava. Small, delicate jewelry pieces are my my go to wear. In my line of work, a wedding band and small earrings are the max for dress up (you can only get so glam in scrubs). My husband figured out my jewelry taste after 25 years and now buys me only sturdy and small jewelry.

      - Martine

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  23. I never heard of this true event movies "Made in Dagenham" and the story about these courageous women fighting for equal pay, way back when. I tip my hat to those women, I'm glad the Duchess of Sussex made reference to Geraldine, I went back and goggled her, amazing what people can achieve when working together.

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  24. What a loss for the BRF, IMO. The Duchess and Duke of Sussex are such a power couple for good. So sad. Thanks, Charlotte. What an impact they have made being back in London just for a week.

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