Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, is using her time in South Africa to stand up for women’s rights.
On Friday, she visited the site in Cape Town where 19-year-old university student Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and murdered. Her death galvanised the country, where rates of violence against women are extraordinarily high: the BBC reports that 2,700 women and 1,000 children were murdered by men in 2018, and at least 100 rapes are reported every day.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has said South Africa is one of “the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman.”
The outcry against gender-based violence has triggered mass protests in Cape Town and across the country. Women throughout South Africa started using the hashtag #AmINext?, a question that’s also reflected in many of the posters used at protests.
At her visit Friday to the site of Mrwetyana’s death, Meghan tied a ribbon to the memorial.
A post on the Sussex Royal Instagram account said that Meghan and Prince Harry had been following the situation in South Africa from afar, and that they wanted to learn more on their visit.
The post also said Meghan spoke to Mrwetyana’s mother this week, and has taken private meetings “to deepen her understanding of the current situation and continue to advocate for the rights of women and girls.”
A day earlier, Meghan held “a meeting of the minds” with some of South Africa’s foremost female activists. “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,” she wrote in a rare first-person post, on Instagram.
According to Harper’s Bazaar, the group included politician Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, who’s campaigned for education; Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, the first Black woman to earn a PhD in math in the country, and Mamphela Ramphele, a businesswoman and medical doctor.
On Instagram, Meghan wrote about how inspiring she found another guest, anti-apartheid activist Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, who is the last living leader of the 1956 Women’s March.
Meeting those leaders was inspiring, she said. “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.”
On Sunday, as Harry met with students in Lilongwe, Malawi who were able to attend school with help from the Campaign for Female Education, Meghan joined them via Skype. She smiled, danced and clapped her hands along to their greeting.
On her arrival in South Africa, Meghan gave a powerful speech about gendered violence while visiting the NGO Justice Desk with Harry.
“On one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband, as a member of the royal family, I want you to know that for me, I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister,” she said.