Duchess Meghan champions gender issues in South Africa
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has said that visiting South Africa for the first time has been a “really powerful” experience and described her tour of southern Africa with her husband Harry as a “really special trip.”
She spoke in Johannesburg hours before it was announced that she was suing a UK tabloid. “The Commonwealth is a very diverse place, with 53 countries, so being a part of this family and the platform that comes with that is an incredible responsibility that I take really seriously,” she told reporters.
“Being able to be in Africa and South Africa, it’s my first time being in this country, has been really powerful.”
On the penultimate day of an official royal tour of southern Africa, the Duchess said empowering women and girls was important to her, telling reporters: “What’s really key is to focus on the work that needs to be done but also how much incredible work is being done, and to be able to be here and support people who are really actively working to champion the right of women and girls.”
Earlier on Tuesday, she had said the levels of violence against women in South Africa had reached a “crisis state.”
Meghan made the comment during a roundtable discussion in Johannesburg on gender-based violence and how to tackle it. The event was hosted by ActionAid, a non-profit that supports the rights of women and girls.
Rachel Jewkes, executive scientist for research strategy at the South African Medical Research Council, had been speaking to the Duchess about how gender-based violence needed to be tackled across all age groups at schools and mentioned new projects that encouraged building healthy relationships with the assistance of parents.
Meghan agreed, responding: “We need a shift in that paradigm. You can’t do that without some of the cultural context. To your point, it is at a crisis state here and the age range that it is happening at is really staggering.”
The Duchess then followed up by asking about the progress the organization had observed.
Earlier Tuesday, Meghan returned to her official duties after a few days off with a visit to the University of Johannesburg.
Welcomed by scores of well-wishers, the Duchess participated in a conversation with educators and students at the college, which is part of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).
The ACU — which Meghan became the patron of in January — advocates for access to higher education and promotes international collaboration. On her arrival, she was met by Joana Newman, ACU’s secretary general.
During the visit, Meghan announced a series of new “gender grants” for the University of Johannesburg, Stellenbosch University and the University of Western Cape.
“True to what you said, when a women is empowered it changes absolutely everything in the community and starting an educational atmosphere is really a key point of that,” she said during the meeting, according to Britain’s PA Media news outlet.
PA also reported that the Duchess said she had been able to go to college because of financial assistance and “families chipping in.”
“If you don’t have the support that is necessary that you feel that you can keep taking the next step then you’re stunted in growth,” the Duchess said.
Yesterday, Meghan stepped out for a surprise visit to Victoria Yards, an inner-city regeneration initiative that is home to design studios, art galleries and other creative spaces, ahead of her first official engagements on Tuesday. The Duchess toured a number of local businesses and was pictured doling out hugs to children.
During the Sussexes’ 10-day tour, their four-month-old Archie delighted royal fans after making his debut at a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Speaking about her schedule, the Duchess said on Tuesday: “They’ve been very kind to me because everything is based around Archie’s feed times so it’s a full plate but we’re making it work. It’s worth it.”
Harry made a poignant trip to the same famous spot where his mother, the late Princess Diana, walked through a live minefield 22 years ago, and Meghan focused on raising awareness over gender-based issues.
Harry is due to reunite with his family in Johannesburg later on Tuesday after spending the last several days visiting Botswana, Angola and Malawi.
“I miss him so much,” said the Duchess of her husband.
Harry wrapped up the Malawi leg of the tour on Tuesday with a final engagement at a remote health clinic in Blantyre.
Also while in Malawi, Harry guest-curated National Geographic’s Instagram account for the day as part of a campaign encouraging people to “share the beauty of trees.”
CNN’s David Wilkinson contributed to this report.