In this file photo Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex arrives at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. - AFP

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, marked her 40th birthday Wednesday with a video asking celebrity friends to help women get back to work after the pandemic. The two-minute turn shows the wife of Britain's Prince Harry joking with actress Melissa McCarthy, and comes two months after she gave birth to the couple's second child, Lilibet. "Because I'm turning 40, I'm asking 40 friends to donate 40 minutes of their time to help mentor a woman who is mobilizing back into the workforce," says the Duchess.

Millions of people around the world have lost their jobs in shutdowns sparked by Covid-19, as governments try to tamp down the spread of the disease. "I think if we all do it, and all commit 40 minutes to some sort of act of service, it will create a ripple effect," she adds. Harry, whose criticism of his family and step away from official royal work has provided fodder for Britain's tabloid press, is seen juggling in the background as Markle and McCarthy joke about tattoos and yacht parties. The couple, who now live in a plush part of California alongside some of the United States's wealthiest celebrities, are forging careers outside the British royal family.

Their ventures include the Archewell organization that released the slick video. Meghan and Harry, 36, sat in March for a bombshell interview with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, triggering the royal family's biggest crisis in decades. During the two-hour sit-down, viewed by more than 17 million people in the US and over 11 million in Britain, Harry and Meghan said racism had played a part in their departure from Britain. They said a senior royal had speculated how dark their child's skin would be before he was born.

Meghan is biracial; her mother is Black and her father is white. Their first child Archie is now two. Lilibet Diana-named for Harry's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and his late mother-was born in early June. Markle's video comes weeks after it was announced that Harry will pen an autobiography that he pledged would be a "firsthand account of my life that's accurate and wholly truthful."-AFP