‘Feminism is about fairness,’ declared Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex in a stirring speech in New Zealand. This rousing speech came as the Duchess, Prince Harry and the nation’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden marked the country’s 125th anniversary of women achieving the right to vote.
Wearing her second Gabriella Hearst item of the royal tour - a black evening gown - she took to the podium and greeted the crowd with the Maori saying, ‘tēnā koutou katoa’, which means ‘hello to you’.
In a country where three women hold the highest office - Queen Elizabeth II as monarch, Dame Patsy Reddy as governor-general and Jacinda, the first leader to give birth in office, as PM - Meghan said, ‘The achievements of the women in New Zealand who campaigned for their right to vote, and were the first in the world to achieve it, are universally admired.'
With a portrait of her grandmother-in-law, the Queen, hanging behind her she continued, ‘Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness. Suffrage is not simply about the right to vote, but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of being able to participate in the choices for your future and that of your community.’ For the Duchess, the reasons women’s right to vote is symbolic is because it uplifts all, ‘members of society who have been marginalised’, whether on account of their 'race, gender, ethnicity or orientation.’
Meghan Markle has been called a ‘modern’ royal, a forward-facing force in an institution that stretches as far back as 1066, but it was this weekend in New Zealand that this really came into focus. Especially, when she ended on a quote from New Zealand’s Kate Sheppard, an eminent figure in the nation’s suffrage movement: ‘All that separates, whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.