Meghan's message to men on International Women's Day - 'Value the women in your lives'

The Duchess of Sussex made a surprise visit to a school to deliver an International Women's Day message to men to "value the women in your lives".

Meghan gave a speech to pupils at a school in Dagenham on Friday. Credit: PA

In one of her last solo engagements as a working royal Meghan, who also revealed that ten-month-old Archie is trying to walk, spoke with delighted pupils at the Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham, east London, and met one of the women who fought an historic equal pay battle in the nearby Ford car plant.

In a speech addressing the school's boys in particular, she urged them to "continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way.

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"You have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life, protect them," she added.

"Make sure that they are feeling valued and safe and let's all just rally together to make International Women's Day something that is not just on Sunday, but frankly feels like every day of the year."

Although rumours had spread about the identity of their special guest, most of the pupils waiting inside and onlookers gathered at the school gates were audibly surprised when Meghan arrived on Friday, to be warmly greeted by headteacher Russell Taylor.

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The Duchess thanked Fiona after the youngster presented her with a small bouquet of purple and white flowers. Fiona later said: "I was so happy, I thought I was going to faint."

Meghan also marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act on her visit to the school.

Her choice of location was noteworthy as strikes in the 1960s by female sewing machinists at the nearby Ford Motor Plant triggered the passing of the legislation. That struggle was depicted in the 2010 film Made in Dagenham.

Meghan told around 700 pupils in an assembly: "I think being able to be in Dagenham is incredibly profound... It is the best example of no matter how small you might feel, how low you may feel on the ladder or the totem pole, no matter what colour you are, no matter what gender you are, you have a voice and you certainly have the right to speak up for what is right."

Meghan's speech in full

"Good afternoon, everybody. I thought you knew I was coming so I'm sorry for the surprise. It is such an honour for me to be here today.

"When we thought about what I wanted to do for International Women's Day this year, for me it was incredibly important to be with the women of our future. And that is all of you young women here, as well as you young men who play a very large part in this.

"I think specifically coming to your school made a lot of sense for me because of this social justice and the impact that it's rooted in.

"Your school mantra as you all know is excellence for all, excellence from all, right. So if that's the case, how does that apply in your minds do you think to International Women's Day?

"I think in many ways it's very much the same thing isn't it, the idea of excellence for all and from all, equality for all and from all.

"Before I continue I'm going to go off the cuff here because I do think what's really key is if there's one brave young man in this room who wants to come and say what he thinks the importance of International Women's Day is, I know there's going to be one of you."

Meghan picked a volunteer from the audience, 16-year-old Aker Okoye, who discussed the importance of men supporting International Women's Day - after first saying the duchess is "beautiful".

Afterwards, Meghan continued: "Well done, very well said, and incredible confidence, don't you all agree?

"I think that is the point, right? In many societies, it doesn't matter where you are, it's very easy to sometimes compartmentalise or silo this idea of International Women's Day solely being about women - but it's not, it's about all of us.

"So I think what you said is incredibly important for all of us to remember, not just on Sunday, not just on International Women's Day, but every day to remember the value that we all bring to the table.

"And I think being able to be in Dagenham is incredibly profound because as you can see with Geraldine (Dear) and the other women who had the strength to really stand up for something that they knew needed to be done is the best example of no matter how small you might feel, how low you may feel on the ladder or the totem pole, no matter what colour you are, no matter what gender you are, you have a voice and you certainly have the right to speak up for what is right.

"And I think what's really key for all of you to remember is especially looking at the people who have paved the way for you to get to this point in your lives and be able to have the access that you do, it's not just an opportunity to continue that, it's a responsibility.

"So I just encourage and empower each of you to really stand in your truth, to stand for what is right, to continue to respect each other, for you young men to continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way.

"You have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life, protect them. Make sure that they are feeling valued and safe and let's all just rally together to make International Women's Day something that is not just on Sunday, but frankly feels like every day of the year.

"So thank you so much for having me, it's really a privilege to be here, thank you."