The Duchess of Sussex had a moment of levity during her impassioned speech about gender equality in education

By Erin Hill
October 01, 2019 08:43 AM

Meghan Markle has a year of royal speeches under her belt, and while she usually has note cards handy, she rarely uses them.

On Tuesday, the Duchess of Sussex was greeted by excited fans as she arrived at the University of Johannesburg to attend a roundtable discussion with the Association of Commonwealth Universities, of which she is patron.

The royal mom gave an impassioned speech about gender equality in education during the event, telling the group: “Sometimes access to education can seem so big, you wonder where to even begin. So you begin with one student, or one school, you simply begin. And that’s when we see change.”

Towards the end of her speech, Meghan had a moment of levity when she joked: “It’s very exciting today. And I will use a note card for this because my goodness, it’s this last bit that I can’t screw up!”

Credit: Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

Her comment was greeted by laughs before she announced a set of gender grants that will improve access to the university and four new scholarships to help students study in different commonwealth countries, allowing cross cultural understanding and an opportunity to deepen their educational studies abroad.

Meghan Markle
| Credit: Ian Vogler - Pool/Getty Images

“The goal here is to be able to have gender equality, to be able to support women as they are working in research and higher education roles,” she said. “And also to be able to have workshops, convene things that are really helping people understand the importance of gender equality.

“When a woman is empowered it changes absolutely everything in the community and starting an educational atmosphere is really a key point of that.”

Meghan Markle
| Credit: Ian Vogler - Pool/Getty Images

She also spoke about her own college experience at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she double-majored in theater and international relations.

“I went to university. It takes a village, doesn’t it, to sort of piece it together for people to be able to finance that. Families chipping in, scholarship, financially all those things that were the reason that I was able to attend university.

“But at the same level you need to have that kind of support on the inside for educators to be able to give as much as they can back to those who are in the educational system.”

Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

One of Meghan’s key causes is supporting girls’ education. She was named patron of The Association of Commonwealth Universities earlier this year. In December, Meghan spoke with a group of students and leaders at King’s College London as part of the ACU to discuss the importance and impact of higher education. She also got personal about her own college experience during a speech from her royal tour in Fiji last October.

“As a university graduate, I know the personal feeling of pride and excitement that comes with attending university,” she said at the time. “From the moment you receive your acceptance letter to the exams you spend countless late nights studying for, the lifelong friendships you make with your fellow alumni to the moment that you receive your diploma, the journey of higher education is an incredible, impactful and pivotal one. I am also fully aware of the challenges of being able to afford this level of schooling for many people around the world, myself included.”

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“Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive,” she continued. “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.”