SUVA – British royal Meghan Markle recounted her own struggles to afford university as she passionately promoted female education to Fijian students in her first speech of the Oceania royal tour Wednesday.
The pregnant American-born wife of Britain’s Prince Harry took center stage at the University of the South Pacific to push the case for open access to education, particularly for women.
“For women and girls in developing countries this is vital,” she said. “Providing them with access to education is the key to economic and social development.
“When girls are given the right tools to succeed they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves, but for all of those around them.”
Meghan, 37, graduated with a communications degree from Northwestern University in Illinois before becoming an actress then marrying Harry earlier this year.
Announcing two grants to encourage female empowerment in Pacific academia, she said higher education for her was “incredible, impactful and pivotal,” despite the challenge of paying for it.
“It was through scholarships, financial aid programs and work-study — where my earnings from a job on campus went directly towards my tuition — that I was able to attend university,” she said.
“And, without question, it was worth every effort.”
Harry, who attended the elite Eton school and Sandhurst military academy, looked on admiringly as his American spouse spoke.
“No way I can follow my wife after that,” he said, to laughter from the assembled students.
The prince acknowledged the Pacific’s concerns about climate change, announcing four scholarships to study the issue.
“All of you living here are confronted with this threat in your daily lives,” he said. “You’re actually experiencing changing weather patterns, ferocious cyclones and rising sea levels, particularly in Tuvalu and Kiribati.
“You’ve been living with this for many years, way before the world started talking about it.”
The royal couple, who arrived in Fiji on Tuesday evening after a week in Australia, appeared relaxed touring the campus, meeting students and pre-school children.
Meghan wore a pink floral print maxi-dress and flowers in her hair, while Harry sported a blue Hawaiian shirt.
Harry is due to tour a rain forest project on Wednesday afternoon with Meghan visiting Suva markets.
The royals will travel to Tonga on Thursday before returning briefly to Australia then wrapping up the tour with a visit to New Zealand.