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Meghan urges young women to challenge leaders to create positive change

The Duchess of Sussex gave the keynote speech at the 2020 Girls Up leadership summit staged online

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The Duchess of Sussex has given the keynote speech at a female empowerment conference (Duchess of Sussex)

The Duchess of Sussex has given the keynote speech at a female empowerment conference (Duchess of Sussex)

The Duchess of Sussex has given the keynote speech at a female empowerment conference (Duchess of Sussex)

The Duchess of Sussex has issued a rallying cry to young women across the globe to “push” humanity in a “more inclusive, more just, and more empathetic direction”.

In the closing speech at a gender equality and female empowerment summit, Meghan called on delegates to challenge “lawmakers and leaders and executives” because it was only by unsettling the powerful they would “create the conditions to re-imagine our standards”.

Her words were delivered online during the virtual event, and the duchess referenced her family, saying “I will be cheering you on, so will my husband, so will Archie, as you continue marching, advocating, and leading the way forward.”

In the keynote speech to the 2020 Girl Up leadership summit, she said: “This is a humanity that desperately needs you.

“To push it, to push us, forcefully in a more inclusive, more just, and more empathetic direction and to not only frame the debate, but be in charge of the debate—on racial justice, gender, climate change, mental health and wellbeing, on civic engagement, on public service, on so much more. That’s the work you’re already out there doing.

“Girl Up members are organising Black Lives Matter protests around the world, you are creating films to encourage your peers to become activist leaders, you are reforming the criminal justice system, we need more mental health resources for all ages, you are leading coalitions to end gun violence.

“You are standing up and demanding to be heard, yes, but you’re also demanding to own the conversation.”

Meghan is an active humanitarian campaigner – particularly on the topic of gender equality – who has spoken about women’s empowerment for a number of years.

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Meghan is a long-term campaigner for gender equality (Chris Jackson/PA)

Meghan is a long-term campaigner for gender equality (Chris Jackson/PA)

PA

Meghan is a long-term campaigner for gender equality (Chris Jackson/PA)

The duchess’ activism famously started at a young age. At 11 she forced a soap manufacturer to alter an advert after she wrote a letter to then first lady Hillary Clinton and other high-profile figures complaining that it implied women belonged in the kitchen.

She went on to say women regularly get a verbal brush off from those in power, something heard “in the moments we challenge the norms”.

Meghan added: “So if that’s the case, I say to you, keep challenging, keep pushing, make them a little uncomfortable.

“Because it’s only in that discomfort that we actually create the conditions to re-imagine our standards, our policies, our leadership; to move towards real representation and meaningful influence over the structures of decision-making and power.”

Former US first ladies Michelle Obama and Mrs Clinton also made appearances during the conference organised by Girl Up, an initiative created by the UN Foundation in 2010 to help support UN agencies that focus on adolescent girls.

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Michelle Obama (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Michelle Obama (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

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Michelle Obama (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The duchess went on to say that to create change, all members of society would be needed.

“The path to get there will take all of us: girls and women, men and boys, it will take those that are black and those that are white collectively tackling the inequities and structural problems that we know exist,” she said.

“I believe we are on the precipice of transformation. We can accelerate the pace of change, and we don’t have to be satisfied with the current speed of progress.”

Meghan highlighted inspirational people like the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who had “brought New Zealand together to swiftly and boldly tackle Covid-19”, and quoted the Dalai Lama, saying: “‘Compassion is the radicalism of our time’. Compassion means seeing the pain and suffering of others and knowing it’s our duty to try to help relieve it.”

And she urged the delegates to have faith in their convictions: “Look, sometimes it’s not obvious what to do. Often, it’s fear that paralyses us and stops us from being brave and being bold. But don’t underestimate that you have some of the answers.

“Don’t underestimate your ability to push through the fear.”

PA