Duchess Meghan speaks out on women’s rights in South Africa after meeting with ‘remarkable’ leaders and activists

By Zach Harper

Duchess Meghan speaks out on women’s rights in South Africa after meeting with ‘remarkable’ leaders and activists


Duchess Meghan made headlines on Sept. 28 when it was revealed she had visited a Cape Town memorial to murdered South African student Uyinene Mrwetyana. In writing about her trip to the site where the 19-year-old lost her life, the Duchess of Sussex also revealed she had been quietly meeting with activists during the royal tour to “deepen her understanding of the current situation and continue to advocate for the rights of women and girls.” Thanks to Meghan her now know what happened at one of those meetings.

While Prince Harry was in Botswana on Sept. 26, the 38-year-old duchess met with activists for breakfast at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Cape Town.

“I have been so moved by what I have heard,” Meghan said in a statement on the SussexRoyal Instagram account after the meeting. “The leadership and strenghth shown by these women is remarkable, and at a time when the issue of gender and gender-based violence is at the forefront of people’s minds.”

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“On Thursday we convened a meeting of minds - a group of women ranging from a legendary anti-apartheid activist, female parliamentarians, professors, educators and policy makers to discuss the rights of women in South Africa. In the lead up to this tour it weighed heavily on my heart to see the countless violations against women, and I wanted to spend my time on the ground learning about the situation at hand. One of the guests, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn was just 18 years old when in 1956 she led 20,000 women to march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest of apartheid pass laws. She is the last living leader of the march, and today, a symbol of those who fight for fundamental human rights - For her it is simple - she fights for what is right. Issues of gender inequality affect women throughout the world, independent of race, color, creed, or socioeconomic background. In the last week I’ve met with women from all walks of life - religious leaders such as the first female rabbi in Capetown, grassroots leaders in Nyanga at Mbokodo, community activists, parliamentarians, and so many more. In sitting down with these forward thinkers, it was abundantly clear - it is not enough to simply hope for a better future; the only way forward is “hope in action.” I’m eager to spend the next few days in South Africa continuing to learn, listen and absorb the resilience and optimism I’ve felt here.“ -Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Sussex

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“In sitting down with these forward thinkers, it was abundantly clear – it is not enough to simply hope for a better future; the only way forward is ‘ hope in action,” she continued. “I’m eager to spend the next few days in South Africa continuing to learn, listen and absorb the resilience and optimism I’ve felt here.”

Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, who led the anti-apartheid Women's March of 20,000 women in 1956, was among those present. She was one of the founders of the anti-apartheid movement.

Former managing director of the World Bank and anti-apartheid activist Dr. Mamphela Ramphele was also there, as were Lindiwe Mazibuko and Nomopendulo Mkhatshwa. Lindiwe became the first non-white person to lead the Democratic Alliance party in 2011, and the African National Congress’s Nomopendulo is one of the youngest women ever to be elected to South Africa’s parliament.

“We can learn a certain amount from the outside, by tracking it through the news, but it’s not the same as being able to truly understand what it’s like on the ground,” Meghan said to the women she met this week, according to Town & Country. “Much of my life I have been advocating for women and girls’ rights, so this has been an incredibly powerful moment to hear first-hand from all of you.”

Earlier this week, Meghan left a message at the site where Uyinene was murdered in Cape Town. Photo: © Shutterstock

Meghan has drawn praise from the community in Cape Town for stepping out to Uyinene’s memorial this week. While there, the duchess left a yellow ribbon on the fence of the post office’s stoop. On it, she had written a message in Xhosa and English: Simi kunye kulesisimo – ‘We stand together in this moment.’”

“It’s a very personal statement she made to say that she understands what happened here, she knows that it’s important to not let us forget that a young girl with so much potential in her life lost her life here, and we should all do something to stop violence against women and children,” Celeste Fortuin, one of those at the site paying tribute on Sept. 28, told the Press Association.

PHOTOS: The best pictures of Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry’s royal tour of southern Africa

Meghan has since left Cape Town, and was pictured boarding a flight to Johannesburg on Sept. 28 with baby Archie in her arms. She will spend several days there before she holds solo engagements on Oct. 1. Harry travelled on Malawi on Sept. 29, and will remain there until October. He and Meghan will reunite for several meetings and engagements in Johannesburg on Oct. 2 before their tour wraps the same day.

MORE: Full coverage of Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry’s royal tour of southern Africa

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