In a world that can seem so aggressive, confrontational, and dangerous, you should know that you have the power to change it. Whether you’re here in South Africa, at home in the UK or the US, or around the world, you actually have the power within you to change things, and that begins with how you connect to others. – Meghan Markle
Gloria Steinem. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Emma Watson. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Malala Yousafzai.
These are just a few influential women who have become pillars of strength and inspiration in the fight for gender equality and Meghan Markle has become another distinguished advocate for women’s rights after the royal tour to Africa with Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex.
Although supporting charitable causes is not new to Meghan or the Royals, her recent visit to South Africa resonated with locals and the rest of the world because she used it as an opportunity to highlight gender-based violence, a profound issue that’s been making headlines around the world as the war on women intensifies.
Harry and Meghan, otherwise known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, began their royal tour in Cape Town where they visited a number of organizations and community projects.
Their first stop was the Justice Desk in the Nyanga township. The Mbokodo Club is one of their projects that empowers girls in vulnerable communities by offering self-defense classes.
While standing between a group of Mbokodo girls and community members, Meghan proclaimed, “While I’m 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 color, and as your sister.”
This heartfelt declaration set the tone for the rest of her visit.
Meghan continued her focus on female empowerment and gender equality by meeting with a group of female leaders, activists, and changemakers to better understand how gender-based violence has shaped the country and is currently affecting the women of South Africa.
While talking to the women, Meghan said: “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.”
After a roundtable discussion at the University of Johannesburg to talk about the challenges facing women pursuing higher education, she announced that the Association of Commonwealth Universities was awarding gender grants to three major universities in South Africa.
“The goal here is to be able to support women as they are working in research and higher education roles. When a woman is empowered it changes absolutely everything in the community, and starting an educational atmosphere is really a key point of that,” she said.
However, despite the visit being filled with notable figures and high-profile events, a particularly powerful moment was when she visited the memorial for Uyinene Mrwetyana, a UCT student whose death triggered a mass protest against gender-based violence in Cape Town in September.
Meghan quietly tied a ribbon to the memorial with the Xhosa words “Simi kunye kulesisimo” written on it, which means “We stand together in this situation”.
Despite marrying into one of the most powerful families in the world, a family whose lives are dictated by tradition and decorum, Meghan has remained true to who she is and what she believes. She is owning her role by engaging personally in issues she cares about and using her position to raise awareness around organizations doing inspiring work and bringing global attention to gender-based violence and the importance of the fight for gender equality.
Although Meghan is a powerful voice against gender inequality, there are thousands more like her who are finding their voices and rising up to join the fight against gender-based violence.
This is one of a series of posts that will highlight inspiring and influential women who are contributing towards the fight for gender equality, UN Sustainable Development Goal #5.