Markle delivered a hopeful speech empowering young girls to continue challenging the status quo to reshape the future as part of the virtual Girl Up’s Leadership Summit on Tuesday.
Hosted by the United Nations’ Girl Up initiative and presented by P&G, this year’s summit followed the theme “We Need to Talk: Connecting the Global Movement for Gender Equality.” Markle joined a roster of influential guests, including Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, Nadia Murad, Sheryl Sandberg, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Abby Wambach, and more.
Markle started her address by borrowing advice from the commencement speech she delivered to the 2020 class of her high school alma mater in Los Angeles. She urged graduates to apply the skills they learned in schools to rebuild the world.
“I want to share something with you: It’s that those in the halls and corridors and places of power, from lawmakers to world leaders to executives, all of those people, they depend on you more than you will ever depend on them,” Markle said.
“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 and to not only frame the debate but to be in charge of the debate,” she continued.
Markle acknowledged that Girl Up members are already doing the work but asked them to keep pushing further.
“Women have always historically gotten a lot of, ‘That’s not how it’s done,’ ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea but we’re going to do this instead,’” Markle said. “But when do we hear that as women? We hear that in the moments that we challenge the norms. So if that’s the case, I say to you, keep challenging. Keep pushing. Make them a little uncomfortable because it’s only in that discomfort that we actually create the conditions to reimagine our standards, our policies, and our leadership — to move toward real representation and meaningful influence over the structures of decision-making and power.”
Creating a more equitable society will require everyone’s participation, Markle stressed.
“It will take girls and women; it will take men and boys; it will take those that are Black and those that are white collectively tackling the inequities and structural problems that we know exist,” she said.
“I believe we are on the precipice of transformation.”
While the world is behind in achieving gender equity, women and girls have the power to reset the bar, Markle explained.
“We can accelerate the pace of change, and you know what? We don’t have to be satisfied with the current speed of progress,” she said.
Acknowledging the role digital tools can play is crucial, Markle said, but they should be used to build each other up rather than to tear each other down.
Young women need to step up more than ever, she added: “It’s a moment where your voices and your action have never been more urgently needed.”
Markle pointed to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, and WNBA star Maya Moore’s decision to stop playing professional basketball in 2019 to free a man who was wrongfully convicted, as examples of inspiration.
Lastly, Markle emphasized the importance of taking real action to effect change.
“It’s going to take more than belief,” she said. “We have to work for it every day when it’s hard, even when it makes others feel uneasy — we have to speak up for ourselves and we have to speak out for others who struggle to be heard.“
Markle went on to challenge young girls to broaden their sense of compassion for others and reassured them that her family is rooting for them.
“Please continue to honor the convictions and the compassion that’s awoken within you,” she said. “I will be cheering you on.”
Disclosure: Procter & Gamble is a partner of Global Citizen.