Sunday, 29 September 2019

The Duchess of Sussex Tells South African Leaders "I Have Been So Moved"

As hoped for, information and images from Duchess Meghan's private breakfast meeting at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Bishopscourt on Thursday morning have been released. In today's earlier post, I mentioned we would see news on Meghan's schedule during the quieter spells in Harry's itinerary in order to ensure the focus remained on the work he's been doing. When it comes to supporting women, the Duchess has most certainly walked the walk and that was very much reflected during Thursday's engagement when she told a distinguished group of nine inspiring women "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. 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."

The group shared their backgrounds with Meghan and their efforts across a number of fields to improve life in their communities across South Africa. People reports she said: "I have been so moved by what I have heard. The leadership and strength shown by these women are remarkable, and at a time when the issue of gender and gender-based violence is at the forefront of people’s minds, I hope their voices will resonate and not only give comfort but also create change. This is not just a South African issue, this is a global problem that can only find solutions with the attention and work of everyone, regardless of gender, status, politics, race or nationality."

Below, Meghan with anti-apartheid activist Sophia Williams-De Bruyn.

Sophia Williams-De Bruyn is a founding member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions. On 9 August, 1956, she led 20,000 women to march on Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest of apartheid lads. She was just eighteen years old. At the march, they sang "You've struck the woman, You've struck a rock". She famously said: "I felt a lump in my throat when I looked at this large army of women: dignified women, courageous women. I felt so humbled to be part of such bravery." In 2001, she was the first recipient of the Women's Award for exceptional national service. Today, she is the last living leader of the Women's march and continues her work as a provincial legislator.

'Women today, wherever they are working... I think the women of that era opened a way for them.'
- Sophia Williams-De Bruyn

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng was also in attendance. Her father was one of the first black radio announcers at the South African Broadcasting Corporation and her mother went back to college after raising three children to become a qualified primary school teacher. Following in her parents footsteps, she knew she could achieve anything she set her mind to. Mamokgheti became the first black female in South Africa to get a PHD in mathematics education. Today, she's the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town. Meghan is a passionate believer in education for all and the power of education to empower girls. I'm sure the pair had a wonderful conversation.

Others at the breakfast meeting included anti-apartheid activist Dr. Mamphela Ramphele who previously served as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and managing director of the World Bank. Mandela Rhodes Foundation CEO Judy Sikuza, South African politician Mbali Ntuli, Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and prominent businesswoman Sonja De Bruyn Sebotsais and Shadow Minister of Health Siviwe Gwarube. Below, a stirring speech by Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, one of the youngest women in parliament in South Africa. "Let us tread softly because we tread on the dreams of a lost generation". I think you'll agree a formidable group of influential women came together for the meeting.

Omid Scobie writes:

'Reflecting on the impactful session, Meghan said, “I was recently reminded that the first one up the mountain often gets knocked down the hardest, but makes way for everyone behind them. These brave women have been able to see how their struggle can pave the way for so many. For all young women organizers, activists and campaigners today, you must keep at it and know that you are working for this generation and the next, and also continuing the legacy of the generations of great women before you.”
Meghan also engaged in an illuminating conversation with gender activist Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, an African National Congress MP and the youngest woman currently serving in the Parliament of South Africa. The 26 year old, who drove the successful #FeesMustFall movement to stop increases to school fees on social media, told Meghan about how she has fought for young people, particularly girls, to have access to education no matter what their background.'

Lindiwe Mazibuko, the first non-white leader of the DA party told ITV: "She is just as intelligent, just as engaged and just as powerful a force in person as she seemed to be from afar".

Shortly after the engagement, the Duchess made a poignant trip which was very important to her personally - she tied a ribbon at the site where 19-year-old Uyinene Mrwetyana was brutally murdered last month, to pay her respects with those who have taken a stand against gender-based violence and femicide. Meghan wrote: "Simi kunye kulesisimo' - We stand together in this moment."

A post written by Meghan on Sussex Royal read: "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. 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."

Meghan selected a sleeveless black top by Misha Nonoo. The Boyfriend Tank 2.0 retails for $70 (with thanks to What Meghan Wore).

And the $130 J Crew Striped Knitted Midi Skirt for the occasion (with thanks to Meghan's Mirror). The piece is described as: "J.Crew's skirt is knitted with contrasting stripes to create the illusion of playful pleats. It has an elasticated waistband for a comfortable fit and A-line shape that flares out at the midi hem." It's available at Net-A-Porter and J Crew.

And her Manolo Blahnik BB pumps.

In his piece for Harper's Bazaar,  Omid Scobie said Meghan intends to remain engaged on the situation back in the UK and will continue conversations with key figures she's met in Cape Town. Omid also revealed Meghan will join one of Harry's engagements from Johannesburg via Skype in her capacity as vice-president of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. The engagement will shine a spotlight on a number of young women involved with the Campaign for Female Education Alumnae Association.

For those following general coverage of the tour, I enjoyed this piece by ITV's Chris Ship:

'This week, we’ve had more access and heard more words from the couple than I’d usually expect in about six Royal Tours. Meghan has articulated her horror at the gender-based violence which is becoming a depressing fact of life for women in South Africa.
In other words, we’ve seen the couple do – in spades - what members of the Royal Family do best: they use their status and their powers of convening to shine lights, to bring focus on the good and the not-so-good, to direct world attention.
What has that meant for this tour? It means I, and many others, have written and broadcast about township poverty, crime and unemployment, mental health in the young, the problems of racial division, the protection of wildlife, the unfinished work on landmines and the HIV emergency in sub-Saharan Africa. And it’s clear both Harry and Meghan share a love for this vast continent.
As a new and captivating force within the Royal Family, Harry and Meghan have shown this week their capacity to make things happen. Would we be running a story on today’s bulletins about gender based violence in South Africa if it were not for Meghan? No.'

We should see coverage of Meghan's Skype chat with Harry and CAMA tomorrow.


  1. This is an amazing group of women! Their brief biographies represent so much work and education. I read that 2,700 women and 1,000 children murdered last year and over 100 rapes reported to authorities every day, so about 10 murders and 100 rapes a day. Are these mostly (all) people of color? This is just astonishing and I hope the publicity gets the government moving to crack down on the problems and NOT the protesters. To survive apartheid and then this! You know, I believe that M&H can make a difference -- I believe in their creativeness and determination.

    1. “To survive apartheid and then this!”
      It is sad, and yet a process however slow it is. The advantage in having H&M ‘s visit, is their very sought after profile not only as a young loved up royal couple, their own passion, their status as President and VP of The Commonwealth trust respectively, but their “power” in bringing the media into exposing the good and bad. The young woman’s impassioned speech in parliament (in the video) is highly inspirational to any one especially her generation of change makers.
      Charlotte - TY for posting that video.

      Still I long to see the good and best of South of Africa in this tour. From tourism point of view, there had not been shown the better side of that part of Africa including the ones Harry visited. I wish his visits are included here, but understandable. Both blogs had been dedicated to the ladies. Their husbands show up if they are with their wives. It had been a lot of social justice and processes of transformation news, or sadly by coincidence the horrors of crime. I think most international tour should include a visit to places, sites, life style visits to homes, mode of celebrations, and over all a mix of the good ( as in something which draws a visit to a place) and the bad etc.

      Dear Charlotte – As usual your international tour posts are a favorite and excellent as much as the history you post with local engagements. It is good to know your other half continues to post the beautifully complimentary and very appreciated banners and time clock.

    2. To answer your question about whether the victims are mostly women of colour, yes, with 90% of South Africa’s population being people of colour, by far the majority (90%+) of victims are women of colour.
      But one of the big fights we are fighting is for people to realise that this is a problem that transends race, culture and sosio-economic class. Women with more money have the ability to pay for better security, for example I don’t have to take dangerous public transport, but can drive myself where I need to go. I can pay a company to provide immediate roadside assistance should something happen to my car. Not all women can.
      But since the majority of Gender Based Violence is committed by somebody the victim knew and trusted, that transcends race and socio-economic class. No money in the world can protect you from that.

    3. RachelZA, I am so ignorant that I didn't realize that the incredibly great majority of South Africa's population was POC. I suppose it goes without saying that the vast majority of white collar jobs like in finance are held by white people, white men. That is what the US did -- give "freedom" but ensure that the "freed" people were kept at a very low level of life. Women of color were given menial service jobs but then they became the major source of income for the household, so the men were angry and took it out on the family. Women of color are less threatening to a white-controlled society, so as they are allowed into education, the men are harassed more by the police. I can understand it while having 0% sympathy for abusive men.

      I know nothing about South Africa, but I wish it could be returned to its original owners. I know that's too simplistic.

      It sounds like a massive number of shelters are needed for women to even start to help them.

    4. Allison in US, there are loads of websites that could give you a quick background on South Africa's "original owners." They are a mix of many different tribes in many different areas. In fact, South Africa wouldn't be South Africa were it to go back to pre-colonial times. One of its provinces is, archaeologically speaking, "The Cradle of Humankind." If we want to truly understand why M & H are in South Africa and why Meghan is highlighting their causes, we really ought to know that background. Charlotte does a great job but there is so much more and its struggles, its pains, would resonate with us, even in the U.S. As you yourself allude to--the U.S. "freed" people and then continued to box them in so they couldn't fully participate in building their country, their cities, their lives. What you are talking about in your post is that our Western society is still run along economic lines and that the "rulers" of those economies are, by and large, white men. Rich white men. Yes, there are rich white women who, for the most part, still operate along the same rules, exploit the same people. Tell the same people what they need. It often doesn't matter if you are male and female, once you get into power you will do whatever you can to stay there. We have, sadly, female examples of that almost all over the world. So empowering women doesn't mean that things will change for the downtrodden unless we change our whole society.
      Rachel, your post is so very true. GBV transcends race, culture and socio-economic class. As long as there are those who are weaker, the stronger will dominate them in whatever way they can. The only hope that humanity has is if we could overcome this "natural" tendency to do that and actually that means the uber wealthy giving up their wealth to actually make a difference in the world, to live more simply and more like the majority so that the majority's lives can be bettered with better education, better health care, a better standard of living. Can you imagine if wealthy people decided that instead of having expensive conferences, they would donate all of that money to the "boots on the ground" people? The mind kind of boggles, doesn't it? Because we have been so indoctrinated that wealthy people need all the wealth, all the publicity, in order to enact change. But those women that Meghan met at breakfast kind of give a lie to that, don't they?

  2. It's so inspiring to see how Meghan has continued to stay the course and get her hands dirty for all of these powerful causes, no matter the media coverage. I've always appreciated Chris Ship w/ITV Royals, because he's never torn her down (that I've seen).

    I signed up to become an advocate for the women's foundation here in Denver, because Meghan has inspired me to take action rather than just talk about causes that are important to me. We may not always agree on the optics of some of Harry and Meghan's decisions, but I think we can all agree that the two of them do care about their work and are serious about making as much of a difference as they can.

    1. Well done Becca. You have inspired me! I am on the board of Girls on the Run and love it for what it does for young girls and yet I know I need to do more. I will find a way to volunteer with women's organization in Baltimore.

      I love the work that Harry and Meghan are doing. Amazing.

  3. Deanne from Canada29 September 2019 at 05:08

    She bloody did it. I honestly care less about the fashion IDs than her work, initiatives, & causes. Meghan wins! Hands down. If other RF members were to adopt this model, their voices would be heard world wide. True Forces if Change!

  4. Thank you Charlotte, for introducing us to these very formidable and inspiring women, and for giving us a peek into Meghan's interactions with and future intentions toward them and their causes. Meghan is so impressive. She gives me life. I love it when we get to see so much of her and Harry and the delightful little Archie.


  5. I've enjoyed seeing the the strength and beauty in the faces of each of these women. What an impressive sisterhood.

  6. Anne-Sophie de Paris29 September 2019 at 07:20

    Merci Charlotte
    C'est avec émotion et des larmes aux yeux que j'ai lu votre article. En peu de temps avec votre éclairage, j'ai pu constater le drame qui frappe ces femmes extraordinaires en Afrique du Sud.
    J'ai toujours dit que la capacité de cette jeune " femme " nommée Meghan est au delà de ses "habits haute-couture " ôter les tenues et vous découvrirez une femme "en or "qui dès son jeune âge se bat pour les droits des femmes!
    La Reine Elisabeth, le Prince Charles, savent bien que l'arrivée de Meghan est une aubaine pour la monarchie et le Royaume-Uni.
    Le couple de Sussex est " le soleil " qui brille au niveau du Commonwealth !
    En peu de temps,il a mis en lumière la problématique de l'Afrique du Sud post -Apartheid .
    Continuer mon " jeune Couple " avec vous la perception de la monarchie sera à jamais modifiée pour la jeunesse. Les seules références ne seront plus les tenues impeccables, les bijoux en diamant, la coiffure impeccable, le sourire aux lèvres, le bouquet à la main pour répondre aux défis d'aujourd'hui !
    Sans renier le travail des Anciens royal's qui font de bons boulots,la jeune garde doit se poser la question chaque fois qu'elle fait une visite.
    " après avoir écouté, quels projets je peux mettre en place pour les personnes que j'ai rencontrées ".
    Tel est le défi que les deux duchesses doivent relever chacune dans le domaine qui est le sien.
    Merci beaucoup Charlotte, je vous adore.
    Continuer toujours de nous nourrir avec vos commentaires justes et bienveillants
    Anne -Sophie
    PS : Becca
    Toutes mes félicitations. Vous ferez des émules.

    1. Anne-Sophie I love your words and it is nice to read French too! You’ve captured the sentiments beautifully.

    2. Anne-Sophie de Paris29 September 2019 at 22:12

      Merci Cynthia ,
      Le plaisir est réciproque.
      Je vous apprécie tous sur le site.
      Les échanges sont cordiaux et bienveillants.
      Charlotte n'est elle pas notre référence ?
      Merci à tous
      Anne Sophie

  7. oh she looks so lovely and she is so inspirational

    thanks Charlotte for your great coverage of the tour

  8. Can you imagine how intimidating it would feel to be amongst such a distinguished group of women who have achieved so much. Good on Meghan. Love that she is wearing affordable looks on this tour. Seems she does pay attention to what people say about her. Looking good. Love the simple top.

    1. Two things I have never doubted when it comes to Meghan is that her heart is in the right place and that she is an intelligent woman. If she gets things wrong - which I do think she sometimes did - she will learn from it and this is a good example.

  9. This outfit looks very nice on her.

  10. And I know this post is about an amazing group of women but Meghan so good in this clothes, the colors, the length of the skirt, the shape, everything works so well!

    1. Anne-Sophie de Paris30 September 2019 at 07:38

      C'est fou!
      La plupart sont bloqués sur les prix des vêtements de Meghan. Kate à son arrivée dans la famille et Diana en son temps en tant que représentantes de la monarchie s'habillaient tous chez les grands couturiers.
      Pourquoi insister tout le temps sur les tenues de Meghan.
      Sur les réseaux dès qu'on parle de Meghan on parle du prix de ses tenues ,ce qui n'est pas le cas de Kate.
      il me semble qu'il y a deux poids et deux mesures.
      Je les adore toutes les deux .
      De grâce ça fait seulement 16 mois qu'ils sont mariés. Meghan n'est pas une idiote,elle est plus intelligente,plus fine que plusieurs réunis dans la firme.
      C'est une fille qui a de la personnalité, qui sait ce qu'elle veut ,qui ne "paraît" pas en jouant un rôle de potiche".
      Elle est, et ne laisse personne indifférent.
      Alors ,il faudra s'habituer,,Meghan sera Meghan, n'en déplaise à ses détracteurs.
      Au moins elle s'investit, elle travaille et joue son rôle à fond.
      Meghan s'habillait en haute couture avant son entrée dans la famille royale.
      Qu'on lui colle la paix pour de bon.
      Nous sommes au 21 ème siècle.
      Si les habits de Meghan dérangent tant, demandons à toute la monarchie de vendre ses diamants, ses châteaux,ses voitures de luxe et de distristrbuer le prix de vente aux plus pauvres du Royaume-Uni.
      Arrêtons cette hypocrisie collective.

  11. Thank you! Thank you! Charlotte. I am learning so much. This has been an eye opening tour. Your coverage is great!


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