Sophie has kept a busy royal schedule while King Charles and Princess Kate face health challenges
Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh is tackling a taboo topic in women’s health.
On Wednesday, the Duchess of Edinburgh — who turned 59 on Jan. 20 — visited the Harris Girls' Academy in London to join students participating in a menstrual health workshop organized by the charity Wellbeing of Women, speaking candidly about the normally taboo topic. According to the Daily Mail, Sophie spoke about the subject during a discussion with students that began by asking, “What is a normal period?”
“When you have heavy periods worrying about when you stand up from a chair. That's the worst one,” she said.
The workshop was organized for Wellbeing of Women’s #JustaPeriod campaign, which the palace said “aims to increase awareness and education around period problems, and normalize conversations around the topic.” Prince Edward’s wife is a patron of the organization, the U.K.’s only charity exclusively dedicated to women’s reproductive and gynecological health.
During the event, the Duchess of Edinburgh heard stories from the students of friends who had to stay home during their periods because they could not afford feminine care products and addressed the stigma around certain period products.
“If you were going to shopping and your friends are going for the mini and regular tampons, are you going to feel self-conscious saying, 'I need the big guns?’ ” the Daily Mail reported that the Duchess of Edinburgh said. “It's not because the size of what you are thinking, 'Oh I must be really big down there.’ ”
Sophie went on to stress that feminine care products shouldn’t be hidden at home, urging, “Let's get them out of the closet.” According to the outlet, the royal mom told three boys who joined at the end of the session that they were “'very brave” for joining in the discussion.
“I think bringing boys into the conversation is very important. I've been to many countries around the world and other countries seem to be more progressive,” the Duchess of Edinburgh said.
The workshop was part of
Wellbeing of Women’s #JustaPeriod campaign, which aims to increase awareness and education around period problems, and normalise conversations around the topic.
Her Royal Highness is Patron of the charity, which supports millions of women through its… pic.twitter.com/RhFhANrzGF
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) January 24, 2024
Sophie became patron of Wellbeing of Women in May 2021 and said she looked forward to lifting the shroud of silence around women’s reproductive health.
"The menstrual cycle, periods, the menopause, having babies... you know, we all talk about having babies, but nobody talks about periods, nobody talks about the menopause, why not?" she said during a virtual roundtable with Wellbeing of Women chair Professor Dame Lesley Regan and other experts.
"It's something that happens to us 12 times a year. It's something that's incredibly normal, but it's something that is hidden. And I think it's time to say, 'Enough, we need to bring this out onto the table and say, let's talk about this.' "
Meghan Markle also used her platform to actively promote women’s voices and gender equality.
In March 2017, Prince Harry’s then-girlfriend penned a powerful essay about the moving week she spent in India to learn about the issues and challenges the women and girls who live there face. In particular, she learned about the stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of access to proper sanitation.
“I traveled to Delhi and Mumbai this January with World Vision to meet girls and women directly impacted by the stigmatization of menstrual health and to learn how it hinders girls’ education,” Meghan, 42, wrote for Time.com.
“During my time in the field, many girls shared that they feel embarrassed to go to school during their periods, ill-equipped with rags instead of pads, unable to participate in sports, and without bathrooms available to care for themselves, they often opt to drop out of school entirely,” she continued.
“Beyond India, in communities all over the globe, young girls’ potential is being squandered because we are too shy to talk about the most natural thing in the world.
“To that, I say: we need to push the conversation, mobilize policy-making surrounding menstrual health initiatives, support organizations who foster girls’ education from the ground up, and within our own homes, we need to rise above our puritanical bashfulness when it comes to talking about menstruation.”
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Sophie has kept a packed schedule of royal duties while other members of the family are dealing with health challenges.
Kensington Palace announced on Jan. 17 that Kate Middleton had “planned abdominal surgery” at The London Clinic the previous day. Palace sources tell PEOPLE that the Princess of Wales, 42, is “doing well.” The issue is understood to be non-cancerous, and Prince William was seen leaving the London Clinic last Thursday during what the palace said would be a 10 to 14-day stay before going home to continue her recovery.
On the same day, Buckingham Palace revealed King Charles is expected to undergo treatment this week for an enlarged prostate. It's understood that the King, 75, wanted to share his diagnosis to encourage men who may be experiencing symptoms to get checked. King Charles will be capable of fulfilling his constitutional requirements and duties during this time, a royal source tells PEOPLE.
Sarah Ferguson, the ex-wife of Prince Andrew, also shared that she was diagnosed with skin cancer over the weekend. The news comes just months after she underwent surgery for breast cancer.
Meanwhile, Sophie's husband is in the St. Helena. There, Prince Edward met Jonathan, a 192-year-old tortoise that many other members of the royal family have previously greeted during their visits to the British overseas territory — including Edward's mother, the future Queen Elizabeth, in 1947.
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