Meghan goes solo in Johannesburg on penultimate day of tour

The Duchess of Sussex was out and about in Johannesburg, South Africa today, on the penultimate day of her tour of Southern Africa. After carrying out many private and unannounced engagements over the last few days, the Duchess had two previously announced solo engagements at the University of Johannesburg and Action Aid, before she reunited with her husband tonight.

Meghan began her day at the University of Johannesburg, in her role as patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which The Queen passed on to her in January. It was a noisy welcome, with students, who had waited to see her, cheering her upon arrival. She was hailed during her visit for inspiring women and praised by the Vice Chancellor Tshilidzi Marwala following the visit.

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The Duchess of Sussex attended a roundtable discussion on the challenges faced by young women in accessing higher education, where she announced new scholarships and grants – three of them gender grants for the University of Johannesburg, Stellenbosch University and the University of Western Cape.

Reaching for notecards she had brought with her, she said; “I will use note cards today because, my goodness, this last bit I can’t screw up.” She announced the cohorts for the Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships, four students – from Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria – who will be studying in South Africa next year.

Speaking to academics and students, the mother-of-one stressed the key role played by education, especially university education, and said how it meant a lot to her “on a personal level”. She said: “When a women is empowered it changes absolutely everything in the community.”

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She also spoke about her own university experience, saying; “I went to university. It takes a village, doesn’t it, to sort of piece it together for people to be able to finance that. Families chipping in, scholarship, financially all those things that were the reason that I was able to attend university.

“But at the same level you need to have that kind of support on the inside for educators to be able to give as much as they can back to those who are in the educational system.”

Meghan expressed her hope to one day visit Stellenbosch University, where the grant she announced will fund a unique walking route on the campus, designed to make both male and female students feel safer. She said that she would like to walk the route once it was completed, perhaps hinting at another visit to South Africa in the not-too-distant future?

After a change of clothes, The Duchess of Sussex visited Action Aid to take part in a discussion about the nature of violence against women and girls, continuing on her work from Cape Town last week around gender-based violence.

Action Aid is a global justice federation which works to achieve social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication. In South Africa they work with poor communities, helping them to realise their rights and enjoy a dignified life. Johannesburg is home to their international head office, and that is what The Duchess of Sussex visited today.

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She was welcomed warmly to the head office, receiving a hug and a drawing full of pictures of love from eight-year-old Luyanda. She was joined on the visit by the Action Aid South Africa country director Nondumiso Nsibande and Fiona Clark from the British High Commission in Johannesburg. They all joined a conversation to discuss the nature of violence against women and girls and the work Action Aid are carrying out to tackle it.

The Royal listened intently during the roundtable discussion, which included Professor Rachel Jewekes -executive scientist for research strategy at the South African Medical Council – Bafana Khumalo – director of strategic partnerships at Sonke Gender Justice – and Elizabeth Steenkamp – programme manager at the Teddy Bear Clinic.

The Duchess was told about the importance of addressing the issue of gender-based violence across all age groups at schools, as well as different types such a peer violence and dating and sexual violence. She also heard about how much of the work is focused on building healthy relationships and encouraging communication around those relationships, in particular with parents.

She asked questions, wanting to learn more about such a big issue for Southern Africa at the moment; “So what are you seeing in terms of progress, in terms of going into their homes, behaviour and having that interaction with the parents as well, especially the patriarch, to be able to shift what that conversation is like?”

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“And when they tell somebody, someone does something. That’s the other issue right? It’s so key being able to feel that they can communicate what’s happening when something goes wrong, whatever it is.” The Duchess told those present at the discussion.

“Talking to locals throughout some of our time here this past week, whether that be the church or that’s in your community….but within that community everyone is saying ‘well that’s just what is done, that’s just how it is’, and you’re shamed into not coming forward. It’s so normalised. You’re shamed into not talking about it, even though you are the victim.

“So I think you’re right to really open that door to conversation, when the entire community, the holistic approach, needs to really be on the same page or you are not incentivised to say anything.”

HRH then carried out a private visit to a school in the area, where she met girls between the ages of 12 and 16 who attend an after school girls’ club in one of the classrooms. During her visit, she learned from the girls how the club helps them to deal with various issues they face. The meeting was private due to the sensitivity of the issues the girls have faced.

Later in the day, Meghan was reunited with her husband for the first time since Friday. Harry flew in Johannesburg this evening, perhaps just in time to put Archie to bed. The couple will carry out the last day of engagements together tomorrow before they fly home after a successful tour.

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