Meghan Markle is on a mission to provide brighter futures for women and girls in developing countries.
After spending a week in India with World Vision Canada this past January, the Suits star has penned a powerful essay for Time magazine detailing the plight of those she meet abroad. Titled "How Periods Affect Potential," Markle addresses the stigma surrounding menstruation and why it's keeping girls from pursuing an education.
"One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health," Prince Harry's girlfriend writes. "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 adds that because menstrual health hygiene is not openly discussed, "Many girls believe their bodies are purging evil spirits, or that they are injured once a month; this is a shame-filled reality they quietly endure."
Meghan, 35, then goes on to explain that because the majority of girls in India drop out of school and return home, it increases "their subjection to dangerous work, susceptibility to being victims of violence, and most commonly, being conditioned for early childhood marriage."
She adds, "As a female in India, the challenge of survival begins at birth, first overcoming female feticide, then being victim to malnourishment, potentially abuse, and lack of access to proper sanitation facilities. Why, if she is able to overcome all of these challenges and finally get to school, should her education and potential to succeed, be sacrificed because of shame surrounding her period?"
During her trip, Markle spent time shadowing Indian women working to manufacture and distribute sanitary napkins within the slum communities, a step forward she writes is a remedy to the lack of access to Menstrual Hygiene Management, toilets and feminine hygiene products.
"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," Markle writes.
"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."