Photo Story: Duchess of Sussex embraces Nigerian heritage, named ‘Ifeoma’

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, recently discovered through a genealogy test that she has Nigerian ancestry. 

And so, during her visit to Nigeria with her husband, Prince Harry, she expressed how "humbling" it has been to learn about this part of her heritage.

On the second day of their trip, the royal couple met with women in the West African nation, and Meghan would acknowledged Nigeria as "my country.”

The Duchess, who by the acknowledgment, highlighting her newfound connection to the nation, is in Nigeria to promote mental health initiatives for wounded soldiers and young girls. Her visit marks the first time she has traveled to the country.

She said, “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 Organization (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 of Sussex had announced on her podcast in October 2022 that she found out through the DNA-based test that she was “43% Nigerian.”

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 excited 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.’ and Edidiong which means ‘blessing’.

Meghan joined female industry leaders such as 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 on how she feels about becoming the first woman and first African to lead the WTO, 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’. 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 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 Prince Harry’s Invictus Games team compete in a sitting volleyball match against the Nigerian military team, featuring soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in the country’s conflict. After the game, the couple met with players, their families, and a group of women who gifted Meghan a traditional 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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