A surprise from the Sussexes tonight as the couple shared images, footage and information from a fascinating event they held earlier this week at Buckingham Palace with young leaders in their roles as President and Vice-President of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. We know how passionate they both are about the Commonwealth - I imagine it was very important for them to not only retain those roles but enable the fledgling trust to grow and flourish.
They hosted young leaders from the QCT network, who each work with the Trust across its three pillars of champion, fund and connect. Topics of discussion included mental health, equal opportunities for all, and the importance of supporting youth leadership to help address global challenges and drive positive change around the world.
Harry and Meghan began by asking the group about QCT and its role in supporting them. QCT advisor Kenny Imafidon commented on how QCT feels different to other organisations because it is "seeing young leaders as equal partners of a movement".
The Queen's Commonwealth Trust shared excellent videos from the meeting.
More from the QCT:
'During the discussion, the Duke and Duchess remarked on the personal lived experience of the leaders in the room and their motivation to act, linking this to the impact this has on developing solutions, with the Duke commenting that it “makes all the difference.” The Duchess added, “Its saying, let’s not wait until there’s a problem and try and fix it, let’s try and stop the problem from happening to begin with.”
The Duke, who has long championed youth leadership through his role with QCT, commented on how the next generation are leading the way in driving change and the potential they represent: “You have a whole group of young people coming through – who just have a completely different mindset and focus on how to make things different – it’s an amazing opportunity.” Victor Ugo, founder of Mentally Aware Nigeria, commented in agreement: “It is very important to change the narrative...young people are very comfortable to take up spaces, as we are passionate about our issue and the topic.”
What I particularly enjoyed about this was the number of videos offering insight into the efforts of each young leader and their participation during the engagement. The first features Kiran Kaur and Amna Akhtar, co-founders (and best friends of thirteen years) of Birmingham-based female empowerment organisation Girldreamer which supports women of colour to live their best lives. Their "aim is to see a more representative world through tackling both social change and systems change by working with communities and companies to bridge the gaps that are causing a lack of representation and access to opportunity for women of colour". Kiran and Amna spoke about the challenges they faced growing up: "We can’t see those things in the world, so how about we create it so that the next generation don’t feel so isolated on this journey, and they don’t feel like they can’t be things because they can’t see themselves," said Kiran. Amna added: "I needed people around me to say to me you can do this, and this belief really made me feel like I could smash those barriers."
Izzy Obeng from Tottenham spoke about her journey creating Foundervine which supports women and young people from under-served communities getting into business and enterprise. "When you’re founding something for the first time it’s really tough, and the opportunity to share those struggles and learn how people do it globally, not just in your local context, is really powerful. In reality, anyone can be an entrepreneur." Since launching in 2018, Foundervine has helped over 2,000 diverse, future leaders create, test and sustain entrepreneurial ventures globally.
Victor Ugo spoke about why he started Mentally Aware Nigeria, the country's largest youth-run and youth-focused mental health organisation, and how important the role of a strong support network is for all of us. He told the Duke and Duchess: "I had very amazing friends and a support system that made it possible to me through a difficult part in my life. That was the inspiration behind setting up my organisation, Mentally Aware Nigeria, because I was looking to create that community I had for myself and replicate it for others." The organisation has more than 1,500 volunteers on the ground.
Emerging from an abusive relationship, Esther Marshall, founder of sTandTall and author of Sophie Says found support through One Young World which Meghan has been involved with for years. "When I was younger I thought I had found someone who loved me. Sometimes he did seem to love me. But at other times - after the drugs and the drinking, he became a different person. He would hurt me to the point that I was scared of him. What happened shook me and shattered my self-confidence to rock bottom."
She discussed how the "powerful" network of QCT has helped her combat loneliness as a founder and feel connected to a movement driving change. Gifting Harry and Meghan a copy of her children's book Sophie Says, which tackles gender equality in sports, she added: "It is all about creating equal opportunities for all. It doesn’t matter your race, your religion, your background, your gender. The messages in it say you can be whoever you are."
I think it's clear the couple intend to continue working in the Commonwealth in their capacity as President and Vice-President of the trust and I expect their visits to member nations will focus on building the organisation.
According to several reports, we'll be hearing announcements in the coming weeks on the couple's plans for the future. Young people and the Commonwealth will most certainly feature in their next chapter. A lovely engagement and so interesting to learn about the highlighted initiatives and inspiring people behind them.
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A closer look at the fabric.
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Looking forward to seeing their future plans.