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Meghan speaks publicly about her mixed race heritage during South Africa tour

The duchess gave a rousing speech surrounded by young women who have benefited from an initiative teaching them self-defence and female empowerment.

The Duchess of Sussex spoke publicly about being a woman of colour for the first time as a royal (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The Duchess of Sussex spoke publicly about being a woman of colour for the first time as a royal (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

The Duchess of Sussex has publicly spoken for the first time since becoming a royal about being a “woman of colour” as she gave a rousing speech to South African township teenage girls.

Surrounded by the young women who have benefited from an initiative teaching them self-defence and female empowerment – Meghan took the unusual step of highlighting her mixed-race heritage as her tour of Africa with Harry and son Archie began.

Speaking in Nyanga township in Cape Town the duchess said: “And just on one personal note, may I just say that while I’m here with my husband as a member of the Royal Family, I want you to know from me I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister.”

In a lighter moment Meghan, who told her audience she was making her first visit to South Africa, danced with some performers after one woman Lilitha Mazana, 23, took her hand.

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Meghan danced with performers who took her hand (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The dancer from the Nyanga arts centre said: “Meghan was a good dancer, she’s very nice. Her dancing is fantastic – I’ve been dancing 10 years.”

Harry also spoke, and said it was “incredibly important” they started their 10-day visit in a South African township to learn about life in black settlements – which have seen increasing amounts of violence against women.

Meghan made the point of telling the young women and others from the community it was her “first time” in South Africa adding “you’re incredible and so powerful, because you’re all powerful”.

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The duchess heaped praise on young women in the community during her speech (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Campaigners took to the streets of Cape Town earlier this month, following a series of attacks that have shocked the African nation, to protest at what they claimed was their government’s failure to deal with the problem.

Meghan and Harry watched South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to his country following days of protests, when he acknowledged the African nation was facing a national crisis of violence against women.

The duchess said: “The work that’s being done here is to keep women and children safer, which is needed now more than ever, this is an issue which has been at the forefront of people’s minds here in South Africa and of course across the globe particularly over this past month.

“Please know that my husband and I have been closely following what you’ve been experiencing here, as best as we can from afar.”

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Meghan embraced many members of the local community during her visit (Ian Vogler/PA)

She added “everything that is being done on the ground is making the great change that you not only need but that you deserve”.

The couple had travelled to the area a few miles out of the city centre to learn about the work the Justice Desk, a human rights organisation, is doing to support the development of Nyanga township children.

The organisation is supported by the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, which has Harry as its president and Meghan as vice-president.

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The Duke of Sussex also addressed the crowd (Ian Vogler/PA)

Harry told the audience: “Touching on what your president said last week – no man is born to cause harm to women, this is learned behaviour, and a cycle that needs to be broken.

“So now, it’s about redefining masculinity, it’s about creating your own footprints for your children to follow in, so that you can make a positive change for the future.”

Gesturing to his head and heart the duke added: “To me, the real testament of your strength isn’t physical, it’s what’s up here and what’s in here. Your strength is in your spirit, which for me means honouring and protecting my wife, and being a positive role model for my son.”

There was a strong police presence outside the grounds of Nyanga Methodist Church – where Harry and Meghan had delivered their open-air speeches.

But inside the compound was a carnival atmosphere where dozens of local primary school-age children had gathered, along with musicians and the dancers.

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The Duchess of Sussex hugs a young child (Ian Vogler/PA)

The duke and duchess appeared relaxed and held hands after they were first welcomed by Jessica Dewhurst, Justice Desk founder, and Theodora Luthuli, Justice Desk community leader.

In tribute to the region Meghan wore a dress by the label Mayamiko, an ethical and sustainable woman’s wear and lifestyle brand, producing clothes made in Malawi.

And the couple wore Justice Desk bracelets given to them when they arrived.

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The Duke of Sussex, wearing a bracelet with the word ‘justice’ (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

At one point as they toured the church grounds, being shown activities and individuals, the couple hugged some elderly women and Harry played a tickling game with a little boy for a few moments.

Speaking about the duchess, after the royals held a private meeting with some of the teenagers from the Mbokodo girls’ empowerment programme, Ms Dewhurst, said: “I think she was really impressed with the spirit of the girls, the girls supporting other girls. She was encouraging them to mentor other girls in the community.

“To hear her say she was standing here as a woman of colour sent shivers down my spine. To be totally honest with you, when I heard that they wanted to say something I just thought it would be a ‘thank you for having us, goodbye’.

“But they tackled some real issues there. They spoke about gender-based violence and the issues our community is facing.”

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are presented with a gift for son Archie (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Before the couple left Ms Dewhurst told guests they had given Archie another moniker – the name Ntsika, which means “pillar of strength” in the language of the Xhosa people who live in Eastern Cape province.

The Sussexes’ baby son was photographed on the first day of the trip, wearing a bobble hat as he was carried by Meghan out of Cape Town International Airport.

PA

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