11 May 2024

Duchess of Sussex speaks to women about her Nigerian roots

11 May 2024

The Duchess of Sussex, says it has been “humbling” to find out through a genealogy test that she is partly Nigerian as she met women in the West African nation on Saturday.

On her second day in Nigeria, where she is visiting for the first time with the Duke of Sussex to also promote mental health for wounded soldiers and young girls, Meghan acknowledged Nigeria as “my country”.

She added: “It’s been eye-opening to be able to know more about my heritage.”

“Never in a million years would I understand it as much as I do now. And what has been echoed so much in the past day is, ‘Oh, we are not so surprised when we found out you are Nigerian’,” she said at the event on women in leadership co-hosted by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian economist and head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“It is a compliment to you because what they define as a Nigerian woman is brave, resilient, courageous, beautiful,” Meghan told the audience.

The duchess had announced on her podcast in October 2022 that she found out through the DNA-based test that she was “43% Nigerian”.

Being African American, part of it is really not knowing so much about your lineage and background ... and it was exciting for both of us

Her first reaction after finding out was to tell her mother, she said at the event in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

“Being African American, part of it is really not knowing so much about your lineage and background … and it was exciting for both of us,” she said.

Mo Abudu, the anchor and chief executive of EbonyLife media group, then asked the audience to suggest a Nigerian name for Meghan.

“Ifeoma,” someone shouted from the crowd, a name from Nigeria’s Igbo tribe which means ‘a treasured thing’.

“Omowale” another suggested, from the Yoruba tribe, which means ‘the child has come home’.

Meghan joined female industry leaders such as Ms Okonjo-Iweala to discuss the importance of mentorship for young women and the career challenges women face in a country like Nigeria, where it is not common for women to be in top leadership and political positions.

Asked by the anchor about how she feels about becoming the first woman and first African to lead the WTO, Ms Okonjo-Iweala said it was long overdue.

“When I will feel right is when we stop saying, ‘the first woman to do this … to do that’,” she said. “I have very mixed feelings about being the first woman because I think women should have been there already.”

She also spoke about mentors who have helped her career, including as Nigeria’s former finance minister.

One way to mentor young girls is by “returning home” to be closer to them, Meghan said, citing the case of Ms Okonjo-Iweala as an example.

“You need to come back home, you need to, at least, be a familiar face for the next generation to say, ‘Oh she looks like me and I can be that’,” she added.

Earlier in the day, Meghan watched as Harry and his Invictus Games team lost to the Nigerian military’s team in a sitting volleyball game. It featured soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in the country’s fight against Islamic extremists and other armed gangs in the country’s conflict-battered north.

After the match held at the Nigerian Armed Forces’ Mess in Abuja, Harry and Meghan were surrounded by players, their families and a group of women who gave Meghan a Nigerian fabric.

“We are friends and family supporters of Harry and Meghan,” said Peace Adetoro, 57, a member of the group. “They are a beautiful couple and we love them so much. We support them 100%.”

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