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Duke alumna's charity chosen to receive royal wedding donations

Here's a look at the Royal Wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were wed at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle May 19, 2018. Here's a look at the ceremony of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were wed at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle May 19, 2018. Here's a look at the ceremony of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's fairy tale wedding captivated more than 29 million TV viewers in the U.S. and hundreds of guests.

In a departure from tradition, the couple chose seven charities for guests to donate to instead of providing wedding gifts. A Duke University alumna's charity was one of those.

Suhani Jalota, who graduated Duke in 2016, founded the Myna Mahila Foundation in 2015.

The foundation works to improve menstrual health in India, including access to sanitary products and information for women living in Mumbai's low-income areas. The foundation employs women living in those communities to manufacture the sanitary products.

"We employ women from urban slums in Mumbai to manufacture and sell affordable sanitary pads back into their communities, improving menstrual hygiene, providing stable employment, and building a trusted network," the foundation's website says.

According to the India National Family Health Survey, more than 40 percent of Indian women 15 to 24 do not have access to sanitary products during their period. Many resort to using rags, old clothes, newspaper, hay, leaves, sand and ash, according to UNICEF and other international aid organizations.

In many slums, Jalota and the foundation say menstruation is a “taboo” subject and some women are afraid to speak freely about their bodies.

And because of the stigma associated with menstruation in India, women are often ashamed to wash and dry the rags and clothes properly. Stored in damp, dark conditions, the materials become breeding grounds for bacteria, spreading diseases and infections.

The foundation has manufactured more than 500,000 pads over the past two years, helping thousands of women.

Jalota said she met Markle at a Glamour Magazine event in 2016 where Jalota was honored as one of the magazine's College Women of the Year. Five months later, Markle was in India with the foundation in her role as a United Nations Women advocate. She invited several of the foundation's activists — including Jalota — to her wedding.

"At the lunch, Meghan learned about my work, including that 50 percent of women in India were using unhygienic methods, like old rags and leaves, to manage their cycles," Jalota wrote in Glamour on May 19. "I didn’t know then that I'd struck a chord with Meghan—and that the selfie we took together would lead to so many life-changing events, including, yes, an upcoming royal wedding."

The foundation was the only foreign organization the couple chose to include, CNN reported.

"The foundation (Myna Mahila Foundation), which aims to offer Mumbai women stable employment close to their homes as well as breaking taboos around menstrual hygiene by offering them access to low-cost sanitary napkins, was chosen by Markle after she saw its work 'first-hand' during a visit to India last year," according to a statement from Kensington Palace.

The foundation also planned a fundraiser in London on May 21.

The seven designated organizations are: CHIVA (Children's HIV Association); Crisis; the Myna Mahila Foundation; Scotty's Little Soldiers — a charity for bereaved Armed Forces children; StreetGames; Surfers Against Sewage; and The Wilderness Foundation UK.

For more information or to donate to the Myna Mahila Foundation, go to www.mynamahila.com.