Meghan meets pioneer of anti-apartheid movement in South Africa

The Duchess of Sussex has met with one of the founding members of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement in Cape Town.

Meghan met Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, who was just 18 when she helped lead a march of 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against segregation in 1956.

At 81, she is the last surviving of the four leaders of the march.

Ms Williams-De Bruyn was among the guests at an event to honour South Africa’s female leaders.

Meghan with Sophia Williams De-Bruyn.

Women from across the political and social spectrum striving for gender equality and women’s empowerment were present.

Meghan also spoke with Dr Mamphela Ramphele – an anti-apartheid activist, medical doctor and former managing director of the World Bank.

Also present were politicians Lindiwe Mazibuko – the first non-white leader of the Democratic Alliance party – and Nompendulo Mkhatshwa of the ANC, one of the youngest women ever to serve in Parliament.

"There is a really powerful representational aspect to having somebody like the Duchess of Sussex representing women, speaking on their behalf, and demonstrating that a woman in a position of power can be substantial, can be intelligent, engaging, and concerned about the circumstances in which others live," Ms Mazibuko said.

"I could never overstate the importance of, what kind of role she can play, in the space, certainly given the platform and the power that she has to convene people and to start important conversations."

The duchess said: “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 leadership and strength 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, 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 solution with the attention and work of everyone, regardless of gender, status, politics, race or nationality.”

Meghan is an advocate for women and girls’ rights. Credit: Chris Jackson/PA

The issue of gender-based violence has dominated South Africa’s national debate in recent weeks following the murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Ms Mrwetyana was raped and killed at her local post office last month after allegedly being lured into a trap when she went to collect a parcel.

On Saturday, Meghan attended the site of the killing to pay tribute to the victim and pass on her condolences to her mother.

A post on the official Instagram account of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said the couple had been following the uprising sparked by the popular student’s death from afar.

The post said Meghan made the visit to pay her respects and to show solidarity with protesters against gender-based violence and femicide.

Alongside a picture of Meghan, the post said: “The Duke and Duchess had been following what had happened from afar and were both eager to learn more when they arrived in South Africa.

“The Duchess spoke to the mother of Uyinene this week to relay their condolences.

“Visiting the site of this tragic death and being able to recognise Uyinene, and all women and girls effected by GBV (specifically in South Africa, but also throughout the world) was personally important to The Duchess.”

The duchess is pictured tying her yellow ribbon to a fence alongside other multicoloured streamers in tribute to the popular teenager, known as Nene.

A 42-year-old male post office employee has been arrested over the killing.

Local resident Celeste Fortuin, who was paying tribute herself, said Meghan’s gesture would mean a lot to the community.

“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.”

This comes after the royals were met with signs of protest as they visited the Bo-Kaap area in Cape Town earlier on the tour.