Meghan Markle is opening up about the powerful week she spent in India in January to learn about the issues and challenges the women and girls who live there face. In particular, she learned about the stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of access to proper sanitation.
“I traveled to Delhi and Mumbai this January with World Vision to meet girls and women directly impacted by the stigmatization of menstrual health and to learn how it hinders girls’ education,” she wrote in a moving essay for Time.com.
“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 continued.
“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.
“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.”
Markle, a United Nations advocate, shares a passion for humanitarianism with boyfriend Prince Harry. She has been working with causes specifically focused on women and girls for the past five years, but her love of philanthropy runs deep and started at a young age. She traveled to Rwanda last year for her work with the organization World Vision Canada.
“Both my parents came from little, so they made a choice to give a lot – buying turkeys for homeless shelters at Thanksgiving, delivering meals to patients in hospice care, donating any spare change in their pocket to those asking for it, and performing quiet acts of grace – be it a hug, a smile, or a pat on the back to show ones in need that they would be alright,” she wrote in an October 2016 post on her lifestyle website, The Tig. “This is what I grew up seeing, so that is what I grew up being: a young adult with a social consciousness to do what I could, and to, at the very least, speak up when I knew something was wrong.”
In November, Thuli Madonsela, a senior South African lawyer who met Markle through the U.K.-based charity One Young World, told PEOPLE the actress’s commitment to the cause was impressive.
“What struck me about her was her personality, compassion and her brain. She is extremely bright,” said Madonsela. “I wanted to know why she was involved in helping young people to discover themselves. She encountered some forms of discrimination and awkward moments. When she had this platform, she thought it was her job to make it easier for other young people to discover themselves and lead their fullest life.”
Markle joined Harry in Jamaica over the weekend for the wedding of his childhood friend Tom “Skippy” Inskip. The event marked something of a public coming out for the couple.
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During the wedding, an onlooker tells PEOPLE that the two shared plenty of PDA, including a sweet kiss.
“Harry and Meghan seem very much in love,” the source said, adding that Harry spent much of his time introducing Markle to friends during the “joyful” wedding.