SEATTLE — On November 27, the news of the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle led many to discover Markle’s acting background as well as her extensive philanthropic involvement. Following the couple’s declaration, Markle made an announcement of her own: after moving to London to officially join the British royal family, Markle will leave acting and commit herself to humanitarian efforts full-time. This will put her among the ranks of many philanthropic royal women around the world.
From writing letters in support of gender equality to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton at age 11, to working alongside Clinton’s team as a women’s advocate for the United Nations in 2014, Markle has a long history of humanitarian accomplishments. However, the royal-to-be will become one of many duchesses and princesses dedicated to humanitarianism. Here are four other philanthropic royal women whose efforts have had incredible impacts in the last few years.
Former Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia
Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia, one of the most internationally recognized women on the list, is a dedicated philanthropist and activist. Princess Ameerah joined the royal family of Saudi Arabia through her marriage to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al Saud in 2008. Before and after the termination of their marriage in 2013, Ameerah was very driven in her activism for women’s rights and vulnerable Arab populations.
Ameerah participated in interviews with news sources such as NPR, CNN and the Huffington Post to advocate for women by protesting laws such as the driving ban and unequal rights in the workforce based on gender. In an interview with Piers Morgan for CNN, Ameerah announced the launch of Up 4 Unity, an initiative that aims to create jobs and reduce unemployment among Arab youth by creating “ladders of opportunity” in farming and agriculture.
Ameerah has received numerous humanitarian awards and ranked fourth in the CEO Middle East 100 most powerful women list in 2012. While she made the decision to step out of the spotlight following her divorce, her humanitarian efforts and projects continue.
Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco
Princess Salma, the wife of King Mohammed VI, is the first consort to receive a royal title, making her the most public Moroccan princess in history. Salma uses her unprecedented time in the spotlight to support humanitarian efforts that are close to her heart.
In 2005, Salma founded the Lalla Salma Foundation for Cancer Prevention, an organization that focuses on cancer treatment and prevention in Morocco. The organization was successful in improving access to care for cancer patients, and this year, the World Health Organization awarded Salma with the WHO gold medal for her organization’s accomplishments. Salma hopes to create a specialized plan that will improve cancer outcomes throughout the continent of Africa.
Salma is also recognized for dedicating her royal philanthropic efforts to HIV/AIDS and is considered a key player in Morocco’s “exemplary” AIDS efforts. Salma met with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on numerous occasions to discuss ways to reduce HIV/AIDS in high-risk populations. UNAIDS also describes Salma as a “leading voice” for the women and children of Morocco.
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand
The daughter of King Bhumibol and Queen Sikrit of Thailand has many impressive qualities, including her mastery of six languages, but she is beloved by Thailand for her philanthropic efforts. Impressively, Sirindhorn has served as Executive Vice President of the Thai Red Cross Society since 1977, which provides various medical services, facilitates blood and organ donations and provides medical training to aspiring nurses.
Sirindhorn is certainly a people’s princess, heading projects to improve nutrition and tech developments to assist people with disabilities, as well as promoting childhood education in rural areas. However, what separates Sirindhorn from other royal philanthropists is her active presence at project sites. It is not unusual to spot the princess in rural Thailand interacting with children and families.
Sirindhorn has such a fantastic reputation for philanthropy that she receives offers and funding from numerous organizations and countries to implement their projects. As a result, she created a charity fund in her name: the H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Charity Fund.
Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands
The last of the philanthropic royal women on this list is recognized as a champion for human rights both within and beyond the Netherlands. After obtaining degrees in economics and political science, Princes Mabel applied herself to numerous humanitarian efforts, earning the title of “Young World Leader” from the World Economic Forum in 2005.
In 1995, Mabel co-founded War Child Netherlands, an organization that serves the needs of children who were raised in war-torn environments. The organization works with children from many areas, including the Israel and Palestine territories, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Sudan. The organization, along with the U.K. and Canadian branches, draws support from international celebrities and global leaders.
One of Mabel’s most notable accomplishments is her time as CEO of The Elders from 2008 to 2012. Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela formed the group in 2007 in an attempt to resolve some of the world’s biggest problems and conflicts such as poverty, war and HIV/AIDS. Given her extensive humanitarianism, it is no surprise that Princess Mabel was chosen to sit among presidents and Nobel peace prize laureates. She also involves herself in the organization Girls Not Brides, which aims to end child marriage.
As Markle stated about her efforts for gender equality “To me, it’s less of a question of how can you do this, and more a question of how can you not?” and in spring 2018, she will join the ranks of many other impactful, philanthropic royal women.
– Danielle Poindexter