Duchess of Sussex launches Nelson Mandela inspired '40x40' project to mark birthday

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It is hoped the project will encourage successful women to share their wisdom and experience with those re-entering the workforce - PA
It is hoped the project will encourage successful women to share their wisdom and experience with those re-entering the workforce - PA

The Duchess of Sussex has launched a Nelson Mandela inspired project to mark her 40th birthday on Wednesday by encouraging people to donate 40 minutes of their time to help others.

Meghan has collaborated with the likes of Adele, Gloria Steinem and Stella McCartney to persuade them to commit 40 minutes to community service or mentorship as part of the new “40x40” initiative.

She recorded an amusing video with Bridesmaids actress Melissa McCarthy to kick start the campaign.

It is hoped the high-profile women will be inspired to share their wisdom and experience with those re-entering the workforce.

Launched on the Sussexes’ Archewell website, the campaign carries the slogan: “For women who give everything, we give our time. Are you in?”. It is accompanied by the hashtags #40X40 and #CompassionInAction.

Campaign documents, seen by The Telegraph, state: “In the wake of the Covid-19, tens of millions of women around the world have departed the workforce, while also shouldering the brunt of unpaid labor (sic), including schooling and caring for family members.

“For her 40th birthday, Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, has asked 40 activists, artists, thought leaders and friends, to each commit 40 minutes of mentorship to support women reentering the workforce.”

The campaign appears to have taken inspiration from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which in 2009 invited people to “start with 67 minutes” of helping others in recognition of the 67 years the former South African President spent in prison.

Mandela Day was described as a “global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact”.

The 40x40 literature adds: “Together we can contribute to a global wave of compassion and positive change” and “Together, we can help unleash a global wave of impact”.

The announcement came after the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge all shared well-wishes to Meghan.

The Royal Family Instagram account, run by the Queen's Buckingham Palace staff, was the first to post on Instagram and Twitter, sharing three photos of Meghan along with the message: “Wishing the Duchess of Sussex a very happy birthday today!”

One of the photos shows the Queen, 95, and Meghan smiling on their first and only joint engagement in June 2018.

Within minutes, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall posted their own birthday messages.

There is mounting speculation that Prince Harry is set to whisk his wife off on an “intimate getaway” to mark her 40th birthday, after reports that the couple were planning a “low key” party for 65 people at their £11million Montecito mansion were denied.

'No 40th birthday party plans'

It was suggested that Meghan had enlisted top celebrity wedding and event planner Colin Cowie to organise her birthday celebration, but on Monday US publication Page Six reported that this is “absolutely not happening”.

It came after former US President Barack Obama, who turns 60 on Wednesday, was criticised for planning a party for 500 at his Martha's Vineyard home this weekend. Harry and Meghan are not expected to attend amid the worsening Covid-19 situation in California.

Instead the mother-of-two, who gave birth to their daughter Lilibet in June, is set to be spoiled by Harry, who has reportedly ordered a cake from a local bakery, Posies & Sugar, which creates cakes in a simple semi-naked icing look and decorated with flowers.

Last year, Meghan enjoyed a quiet birthday at home amid the pandemic, five months after she and Harry sensationally quit the Royal family and moved to the US.

In a post from 2016 on her now defunct blog, The Tig, Meghan wrote: “My mom has always said that birthdays are your own personal New Year.

“Your own chance to make resolutions just for yourself and what you prognosticate for your year ahead.”

For the Duchess's 36th birthday a year later, the prince took her away to Botswana where they carried out conservation work with the charity Elephants Without Borders.

She marked her 37th - her first birthday as an official member of the Royal family - at the wedding of Harry's friend Charlie van Straubenzee and Daisy Jenks in Surrey.

On her 38th, which was Meghan's first as a mother, having given birth to son Archie in May 2019, the couple held a private celebration at their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor before flying to Ibiza.

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