On Friday the Duchess of Sussex made a surprise visit to a high school in Dagenham, an East London suburb where female employees of the Ford Motor Company fought for the right to earn the same amount of money as their male colleagues in 1968. Their extended strike eventually lead to Britain’s Equal Pay Act, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
In a speech to the students at Robert Clack Upper School, Meghan said being in Dagenham felt “incredibly profound.”
The strike that led to equal pay, she said, is “the best example of no matter how small you might feel, how low you may feel on the ladder or the totem pole, no matter what colour 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.”
Meghan also made a direct appeal to the boys in the audience.
“It’s very easy to sometimes compartmentalize or silo this idea of International Women’s Day as solely being about women. But it’s not, it’s about all of us,” she said.
She urged boys 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,” she went on. “Protect them. Make sure that they are feeling valued and safe and let’s all just rally together to make International Women’s Day something that is not just on Sunday, but frankly feels like every day of the year.”
Then she asked if there was “one brave young man” willing to join her onstage to talk about the importance of International Women’s Day. Sixteen-year-old Aker Okoye, the school’s head boy, was quick to take her up on the offer — and he cracked the whole room up by starting his speech with a cheeky “She really is beautiful, innit?”
Meghan laughed along, but shook her head and playfully wagged a finger at him.
Gender equality is an important cause for the duchess. She’s explained before about how at age 11 she was upset after seeing an ad for dish soap that assumed only women do housework. She wrote a letter to the company, and they ended up changing the ad.
On Saturday, Meghan and her husband Prince Harry stepped out for the Mountbatten Festival of Music, which showcases the work of military musicians. Harry wore red military regalia, which Meghan matched in a bright red cape dress by Safiyaa, the London-based designer was also behind a similar caped blue dress she wore in Fiji on the couple’s 2018 royal tour.
On Monday, Meghan and Harry will join the rest of the Royal Family to celebrate Commonwealth Day.
With files from Sarah Turnnidge
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