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Meghan Markle has told girls at a leadership summit that their voices can be louder than negative “noise” as she praised them for already changing the world.
Speaking at the UN’s Girl Up event, she encouraged girls watching to use their voices to drown out the “outsized” and “negative” voices, particularly online.
The Duchess of Sussex also revealed that the “hardest part” for her was chasing “convictions with actions”.
She said: “Your generation is often referred to as digital natives, and you understand that our online world has the power to affirm and support as much as it does to harm.
“We are not meant to be breaking each other down; we are meant to be building each other up. So use your voice both on-and-offline to do just that – build each other up, support each other.
“There will always be negative voices and sometimes those voices can appear to be outsized, and sometimes they can appear to be painfully loud.
“You can and will use your own voices to drown out the noise. Because that’s what it is – just noise.
“But your voices are those of truth. And hope. And your voices can and should be much louder.”
The Duchess of Sussex was closing a plenary session called The Time Is Now and spoke on the same day as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.
She said: “Many of you have already spent years embodying – and yes, even enacting – the change you’d like to see in the world. Yet the opportunity that lies ahead for you is the same one that those graduates and millions of young women around the world, have as well.
“I want to share something with you. It’s that those in the halls and corridors and places of power – from lawmakers and world leaders to executives – all of those people, they depend on you more than you will ever depend on them. And here’s the thing: they know this.”
She also said: “They know that all of you, at a younger age than any modern comparison, are setting the tone for an equitable humanity. Not figuratively, literally.
“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.
“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, you are telling your school boards 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.”
A source close to the duchess said areas like gender equity, civic engagement and youth empowerment are a key focus for her.
Meghan, 38, and her husband Prince Harry, 35, are in Los Angeles where they are shaping their future non-profit Archewell, which they plan to launch next year.
In the message on Tuesday, she also said it would not be enough to believe in equality, adding “we have to work for it every day; even when it's hard and even when it makes others feel uneasy”.
It echoes the comments she and Harry made in a discussion with Queen’s Commonwealth Trust leaders, in which they said people would have to be uncomfortable to bring change.
The UN summit was aimed at girls aged 13-22 and this year, 40,000 people signed up to attend, from 172 countries.
Meghan told them not to doubt that they had some of the answers.
She added: “Don’t underestimate your ability to push through the fear. You have, rooted in your convictions, the ability to craft a world that you know is just and kind. Your gut will tell you what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s fair and unfair.
“The hardest part – and it was the hardest part for me – is to chase your convictions with action.”
She closed her message by saying: “I will be cheering you on, so will my husband, so will Archie, as you continue marching, advocating, and leading the way forward.”
Meghan’s speech came after a message from her friend Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who attended her wedding in 2018 in Windsor.
Chopra Jonas spoke about the coronavirus pandemic, reminding attendees that social distancing and water are privileges, as many don’t have the ability to keep 2 metres apart or access to running water.
She said: “Even if all you have is a voice, I hope you use it, for all of those who can’t.
“Opportunity is not fairly distributed, but if each and every one of us raises our voice, we will build a world where no girl is silenced because of who she is.”
Before marrying, Meghan was a UN women’s advocate for political participation and leadership, and delivered a speech at the UN on International Women’s Day in 2015.
She started campaigning for equality at a young age, writing to Proctor and Gamble about an advert in which they implied only women do the dishes.
In a full-circle move, Girl Up 2020 was sponsored by the same company.