It’s a sign of the times that even a conversation between three of the most famous and influential people in the world starts with some variation of, “Can you hear me OK?”
That marked the beginning of a virtual chat that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai on Sunday to celebrate International Day of the Girl.
Yousafzai, who’s been fighting for girls to have access to education since she was 11, asked Meghan why girls’ education was a priority for her.
“So much is at stake when we don’t give a young woman an opportunity to learn,” Meghan said. “When young girls have access to education, everyone wins and everyone succeeds.”
She explained that tools granted to girls in childhood will result in more empowered female leaders.
When asking ”‘How do you get a woman to embrace her voice,’ well, you have to start with where she is as a young girl,” Meghan said. “Typically, when a woman is present at the table, she’s going to be advocating for an entire family instead of a patriarchal presence.”
COVID-19 could add significantly to the 130 million girls who aren’t in school
Meghan’s commitment to those issue dates back to before she was the Duchess of Sussex. In 2016, she visited Rwanda and then India, where she saw firsthand some of the challenges to girls’ education, she said: in both countries, girls were at risk of dropping out because they weren’t given bathroom facilities or were forced to miss school when they were menstruating. In 2017, eight months before she and Harry announced their engagement, she wrote an op-ed for Time about period poverty.
Not having equal access to schooling as a child will effect a girl’s future, she explained on Sunday.
“That alone creates a ripple effect for your entire life,” she said. “By fixing that one thing, you end up fixing multiple problems.”
“Right now, there are already 130 million girls out of school, but an additional 20 million more girls are at risk of dropping out of school because of this pandemic,” Yousafzai said.
Many of these girls will be forced to marry, or will become family breadwinners, she explained, and won’t have the opportunity to finish their educations.
Yousafzai added that she remembers meeting Prince Harry back in 2014. “It’s been a long time since then,” she said.
Perhaps charitably, she didn’t bring up the details of the meeting. It was at a WE Day event, and apparently even the prince made a faux pas, the now-controversial Canadian organization’s co-founder Craig Kielburger told Hello Magazine.
“Prince Harry put his arm around Malala for a photo and very loudly in the corner Malala’s mother in Urdu shouts ‘No, no no,’ which translated to ‘Not unless you marry her can you touch her,’” Kielburger told the magazine. “The prince was so red in his face at that moment and he was clasping his hands in the front. Malala was so embarrassed!”
Malala talked about her Oxford graduation
The three of them also talked about their own experiences living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Yousafzai, who graduated from the University of Oxford in June, said she found it hard having to leave the college environment she loved to stay home and experience such a milestone virtually.
“I graduated at home, I was taking my exams at home,” she said. “It was very difficult not to be at college anymore, not to be with friends, not to have those traditional ceremonies.”
But, she felt lucky to have the opportunity to learn at home, she said, knowing that not everyone has that option.
And of course, we got some Archie updates
When Yousafzai asked Harry and Meghan how they were spending their time in quarantine, Harry was quick to pipe up: “On Zoom!”
“On Zoom calls,” Meghan agreed, laughing.
When they’re not on conference calls, though, they’ve been spending time with their one-and-a-half year old son, Archie.
“We were both there for his first steps, his first run, his first fall, his first everything,” Harry said.
They also acknowledged how difficult the pandemic has been, particularly from a mental-health perspective. But, they added that in some ways they’ve appreciated their time at home, because they’ve been around for more of Archie’s milestones than they would be in a non-pandemic year.
“We’re fortunate to be able to have this time to watch him grow,” Meghan said. “In the absence of COVID, we’d be travelling and working more externally, and we’d miss a lot of those moments.”
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