"This has been an incredibly powerful moment to hear first-hand from all of you," said Meghan Markle

By Maria Pasquini
September 28, 2019 07:00 PM
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Meghan Markle is continuing her work as a champion of women’s rights.

On Thursday, the Duchess of Sussex hosted a meeting with a group of South African female activists during her stay in Cape Town to get a better understanding of the work they’ve done in their communities, as well as the problems they face, which includes violence against 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,” Meghan said to her guests.

“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,” she added. “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.”

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Meghan Markle and activists
Sussex Royals/Instagram
Meghan Markle

The distinguished group of women who joined Meghan for the meeting included Nompendulo Mkatshwa, who is one of the youngest women in Parliament, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town — and also the first black woman to get a PhD in mathematics education — as well as Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, a former anti-apartheid activist, who led a march of 20,000 women protesting apartheid pass laws in 1956, when she was just 18.

Meghan described Williams-De Bruyn as an inspiration to both herself and women everywhere.

“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,” she said. “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 Markle and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn

Over the weekend, Meghan opened up about her experience in a post on the Sussex Royal Instagram account.

“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,” she wrote.

“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,” she added. “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.“

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Earlier this week, the royal mom, who has remained in the Cape Town area with son Archie, also made a private visit to the memorial of Uyinene Mrwetyana, the 19-year-old University of Cape Town student who was raped and murdered, allegedly by a post office worker.

She had been missing in late August and her death was confirmed in September.

“Having closely followed the tragic story, it was a personal gesture [Meghan] wanted to make,” her spokesperson confirmed with PEOPLE.

Meghan visited the memorial at the Clareinch Post Office, where Mrwetyana died. The Duchess of Sussex paid tribute by leaving a handwritten message which read: “Harry & Meghan 26th September 2019.” In addition, she wrote, “We stand together in this situation,” in the native language of Xhosa.

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Mrwetyana’s death triggered national outrage about the safety of women in South Africa as one in five women are assaulted by a partner, according to the BBC, which also stated that there are more than 40,000 cases of rape reported each year with most of the victims being female.