Duchess Meghan joins Priyanka Chopra, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton at Girl Up Summit

By Heather Cichowski and Zach Harper

Duchess Meghan encouraged young women and girls around the world to "build each other up" in continuing to push for social change in a keynote speech she made at the Girl Up Leadership Summit for gender equality on July 14.

The Duchess of Sussex pointed to the online sphere as a key spot for change, saying young people today are often referred to as "digital natives" because they "understand that our online world has the power to affirm and support as much as it does to harm." She encouraged people to raise their voices to drown out trolls.

"We are not meant to be breaking each other down; we are meant to be building each other up," she said from her home in Los Angeles. "So use your voice both on and offline to do just that – build each other up, support each other.

"There will always be negative voices and sometimes those voices can appear to be outsized, and sometimes they can appear to be painfully loud. You can and will use your own voices to drown out the noise. Because that's what it is – just noise. But your voices are those of truth. And hope. And your voices can and should be much louder."

Video courtesy Girl Up / The Duchess of Sussex

Meghan's wide-ranging speech also addressed Black Lives Matter and the movement for racial justice and equality for all women and girls. She said the coronavirus pandemic combined with the protests that we've seen recently around the world find us all being asked "to do more." It's all very well to believe all people are equal, she said, but belief doesn't make that a reality.

"It's a moment where your voices and your action have never been more urgently needed," she said. "Believing in true equality is not enough – it's going to take more than belief. We have to work for it every day; even when it's hard and even when it makes others feel uneasy. We have to speak up for ourselves and we have to speak out for others who struggle to be heard."

Priyanka Chopra also gave a moving speech at the summit about how she was inspired by a girl she met in a small village in India. The actress also highlighted how even during difficult times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, girls can still make a real difference.

"The challenges of today don't stop us from achieving our dreams of a better tomorrow," she said.

Priyanka, pictured with Abigail Spencer, was one of the guests at Meghan and Prince Harry's wedding in 2018. Photo: © Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

The star went on to talk about an inspiring girl named Sadhana, who she met in 2014. Priyanka said she continues to inspire her "every single day." Sadhana's father had a medical emergency that left him paralyzed and unable to take care of the family. He could no longer work and as the primary breadwinner, 14-year-old Sadhana and her sisters could no longer afford to go to school without his income.

Video courtesy Girl Up / The Duchess of Sussex

Sadhana helped her mother with small sewing tasks, including fixing hems and mending buttons. The enterprising girl made enough money to buy her own sewing machine, then purchased more sewing machines. She eventually generated enough income through her sewing business to help pay for her father's medical bills. The profitable business allowed Sadhana and her sisters to go back to school. She went on to create a profitable sanitary napkin enterprise for girls with small businesses in the community so they could have multiple income streams to support their families.

"Every one of you here is already a leader by virtue of your presence here. You could be doing anything today, but you chose to invest in your peers, your communities, and most importantly, yourselves," the actress explained.

"That means you already have the strength to pave your own path. You have the courage to take ownership of your destiny. The drive to make a difference.

"I admire you so much for recognizing the power of your voice."

The summit also featured guest appearances by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, who spoke about the resilience of women and girls in the last few months.

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