If there’s anyone who wouldn’t miss World Access to Higher Education Day — even in spite of a six-week hiatus from the public eye, a “much needed” break that has just graciously yielded a never-before-seen photograph from a certain royal wedding — it would be none other than the Duchess of Sussex.
On Nov. 26, Meghan Markle published a letter of support to the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), an international organization dedicated to “building a better world through higher education” that doubles as one of Markle’s royal patronages.
“Today, on World Access to Higher Education Day, we are able to celebrate the vital role that colleges and universities play in society and how important it is for all people, regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, to have the opportunity to access this higher education,” she wrote in the letter, published on the ACU website.
“The value of this cannot be understated. Because education expands mindsets, and those minds can then expand the scope of the world at large.”
If you’re devoted or even partially interested in keeping up with the duke and duchess, then you’d probably know that access to education has been an important cause for Meghan Markle since even before she married Prince Harry in 2018.
So in light of these constant efforts, here are six ways the Duchess of Sussex champions higher education for girls and women:
Watch: Meghan Markle’s University of Johannesburg speech on women’s education. Story continues below.
One of her royal patronages is The Association of Commonwealth Universities
Earlier this year, the Duchess of Sussex was named the patron of four new organizations, one being the ACU, an inheritance from none other than the Queen, who herself served as its patron for 33 years.
The ACU was founded in 1913 and is considered to be the world’s oldest international university network, one that “champions higher education” through efforts like scholarship programs.
“It is important to note that for many young people … the opportunity to achieve their full potential through education can simply feel out of reach,” a quote, attributed to Markle, says on the ACU’s website.
“Whether it is cost prohibitive or that the cultural stigma in their specific community restricts their ability to attend by virtue of their gender, race, or creed — the ACU seeks to break through these boundaries and enable all curious minds the opportunity to whet their appetites for the experiential value of higher learning.”
As a World Vision ambassador, she focused on sanitation initiatives
Even before she became the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle was already a humanitarian.
As the global ambassador for World Vision — the world’s largest international children’s charity— she was point on several clean water and sanitation initiatives in countries like Rwanda and India.
In 2016, she went to Rwanda to highlight how adequate bathrooms could be the difference between girls and women getting an education or not. While there, she visited a school where new toilets had recently been built, and in a video of her visit, explained how more than 200 students had enrolled since the installments.
“What seems like something so simple to us has really changed the community and these kids’ ability to stay in school and maximize their education and learning,” Markle said. “It’s the little things that have the biggest impact.”
She wrote an op-ed in Time about how menstruation affects access to education
World Vision wasn’t the only place where Markle expressed her concerns about the link between bathrooms and education.
In an op-ed for Time magazine published in March 2017, she wrote about how the stigma around menstruation and the lack of access to proper sanitation “directly inhibit[s] young women from pursuing an education,” since millions of girls and women are often forced to miss school and work, which raises the risk of them dropping out completely.
“In communities all over the globe,” Markle wrote, “young girls’ potential is being squandered because we are too shy to talk about the most natural thing in the world.”
In her very first royal speech, she talked about her own challenges going to college
At her first ever royal speech, the Duchess of Sussex visited the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, where she passionately discussed what her own college education at Northwestern University meant to her, and how she was only able to afford it by way of “scholarships, financial aid programs and work-study.”
“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,” Markle said. “Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive. And for women and girls in developing countries, this is vital.”
The Duchess went on to announce two new grants that would be awarded to Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific, which would allow each to run workshops to empower female staff and encourage others to follow in their footsteps, so that more women might “become part of the decision-making process in academic institutions.”
She announced three new grants during a visit to the University of Johannesburg
In October, during her 10-day royal tour with Prince Harry and baby Archie, Markle participated in a roundtable discussion at the University of Johannesburg.
“When a woman is empowered, it changes absolutely everything in the community,” Meghan said.
The event was run by the ACU, and it was there that she announced three new grants for women’s education in South Africa, which would apply to the Universities of Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, and Western Cape.
“Sometimes access education can seem so big, you wonder where to even begin,” she said. “So you begin with one student, or one school. You simply begin. And that’s when we see change.”
Meghan and Prince Harry visited Education for All during their royal tour stop in Morocco
On their royal tour in early 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex focused on issues that remain close to their hearts: women’s empowerment, girls’ education, and encouragement of social entrepreneurship.
During their trip to Morocco, the pair visited the Education For All boarding house in the Atlas Mountains, an organization dedicated to building boarding houses for girls between the ages of 12 and 18, to ensure they have access to secondary education in rural communities.