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.
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".
"She is just as intelligent, just as engaged and just as powerful a force in person as she seemed to be from afar"— ITV News (@itvnews) September 29, 2019
Lindiwe Mazibuko, the first non-white leader of the DA party, met the Duchess of Sussex at an event to honour South Africa’s female leadershttps://t.co/QuPZXaUAHP pic.twitter.com/NmKmT7vBUY
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.