SEATTLE, Washington — In entertainment, Meghan Markle is best known as Rachel Zane from Suits, a half decade-spanning U.S. television drama with a viewership of more than 1.7 million. In an essay published on The Tig, Markle candidly shares her vision: the reconciliation of her rising fame and personal philanthropy to positively impact society.
When Markle was 11 years old, she wrote letters to Hillary Clinton, Gloria Allred, Linda Ellerbee and a company that manufactures dishwashing liquids. She felt angry that the company’s advertisement had elicited unintended but belittling comments from young viewers about women. To her surprise, she received support from Clinton, Allred and Ellerbee, and she successfully rallied to change the language in the company’s advertisement. In September 2012, nearly 22 years later, she presented a speech at the U.N. Women’s HeforShe conference on gender equality. There she said it was her goal “to use whatever status I have as an actress to make a tangible impact.”
As an advocate for U.N. Women, Markle also visited the Gihembe refugee camp in Rwanda with the country’s female parliamentarians. While only 23 percent of government positions around the world are filled by women, in Rwanda that number is 64 percent. In 1990, only 17 percent of seats in Rwanda’s government were held by women. In Rwanda, she received an invitation to the BAFTAs, and she struggled to decide between fame or purposeful philanthropy. Ultimately, she rejected the glitz and glamor for the simplicity and grace found in the children’s pure smiles and the native fields of Rwanda.
Today, 93 U.N. member states have committed to ending discrimination against women by 2030. A report by McKinsey Global Institute estimated that $12 trillion could be added to the global economy by advancing gender equality. The study also found that the highest relative boosts would be in India and Latin America, with the potential to increase GDP by more than 10 percent. Many Latin American countries have announced and implemented concrete actions to close the gender gap, but India is conspicuously absent from the list of U.N. member states committed to ending discrimination against women by 2030.
About a decade ago, Markle sponsored a child in Malawi through World Vision. Today, she is Canada’s World Vision Global Ambassador. In February 2016, she visited a school in the Gasabo region of Rwanda to teach watercolor painting to students, using the water from a newly-installed pipeline in their community. The students created pictures based on their hopes and dreams, and Markle brought these paintings back to Canada to share the student’s stories. She explains that access to clean water has other functions in addition to daily survival: the enrichment of a creative imagination and the maximization of a student’s time in school. By promoting education and creativity, students learn how to find solutions to particular problems. As they mature, they can apply creativity and problem-solving to their community’s needs as well.
The world can be encouraged to see Meghan Markle’s philanthropy continue. As she shares her generous personal philosophy with her millions of fans, her spirit of humanitarianism will be spread throughout a generation and inspire the next philanthropists.
— Andy Jung