Meghan raises fears about how menstruation affects girls’ education

The Duchess of Sussex has raised concerns about the plight of young girls and women in developing countries who are stigmatised when menstruating.

Meghan spoke out about the issue when she met students from the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and told a researcher it was important to highlight the problem.

The topic is one the duchess feels passionate about and in recent years she has written how menstruating affects the education opportunities of young girls.

Duchess of Sussex at the Association of Commonwealth Universities
Duchess of Sussex at the Association of Commonwealth Universities

The duchess, who wore a Givenchy outfit, spoke about the topic when she visited City, University of London – one of the ACU’s 500 university members – to mark succeeding the Queen as the ACU’s patron.

Dr Ephraim Kisangala, a Commonwealth PhD scholar from Uganda, who is studying public health and health promotion at Bangor University, spoke to the duchess about his thesis on menstrual hygiene management in refugee settlements in his country.

He said: “The duchess was very passionate about our work, I could tell she had a genuine concern for the women we are trying to help.

The arrival of The Duchess of Sussex

— Clara Rauschendorfer (@Clairassy) January 31, 2019

“She has been to Africa and has also identified the problem herself in the past for the women who are suffering due to the attitudes towards menstruation across the world.

“My research is specifically targeted at finding solutions to assist women in refugee settlements in Uganda and the duchess said more must be done to help these women.

“The most affected are women and children who flee without even the basic of necessities.”

Dr Kisangala added: “The duchess said to me how shocked she was and how it was so important to raise awareness of this issue so that more can be done.”

Duchess of Sussex at the Association of Commonwealth Universities
Duchess of Sussex at the Association of Commonwealth Universities

In March 2017 for International Women’s Day, Meghan spoke out about the stigma surrounding menstruation, particularly in impoverished countries such as India, where girls can be shamed for starting their periods and are at risk of leaving education.

Her words were published in Time magazine and also on her now defunct blog, The Tig.

She wrote: “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.”

Duchess of Sussex at the Association of Commonwealth Universities
Duchess of Sussex at the Association of Commonwealth Universities

Dr Kisangala added: “With her profile and now her involvement with the ACU, we are very hopeful she can help shine a light on this problem. No woman should have to suffer these problems that women in the West take for granted.”

He went on to say: “Perhaps we will be able to bring her to Africa again to help us with our work, I believe she is the perfect ambassador for the ACU and these issues.”

Established in 1913, the ACU is one of the world’s oldest international university networks, with more than 500 member institutions in over 50 countries.

Meghan arrives at City, University of London
Meghan arrives at City, University of London

The ACU brings together universities, academics and students from around the world to advance knowledge, promote understanding, broaden minds and improve lives.

During the visit Meghan reacted with shock, saying “oh my God” when shown data published by a higher education charity showing UK professors were overwhelming white males, said Dr Rachel Cowen.

Dr Cowen, who is Manchester University’s lead for equality, diversity and inclusion, pointed out the research from Advance HE that revealed 68% of UK professors were white males, 23% white female, 6.5% black and minority ethnic (BME) male and 2% BME female.

The duchess turned to her private secretary Amy Pickering and asked her to take a picture of the data relating to 2016-17.

Dr Cowen, who supports ethnic minority and female staff at Manchester University, said: “She was really surprised, she was like ‘oh my God, really, we need to get a photograph of this’.”

She added: “We’ve all got lots of initiatives in this area but we’re making glacial progress.”