meghan markle south africa speech

In full: Meghan Markle's impassioned speech received huge cheers - read here

Meghan delighted the crowds on the first day of her joint tour

Sharnaz Shahid

The Duchess of Sussex set to work straight away as she arrived in South Africa on Monday, delivering a powerful speech to township teenage girls. Just hours after landing with Prince Harry, the 38-year-old made her way to Nyanga Methodist Church in Cape Town, one of Cape Town's largest black settlements, to learn about life for thousands of South Africans. During her speech, Meghan touched upon her position in the world as a "woman of colour" for the first time. Young women, who have benefitted from a female empowerment programme teaching them self-defence, came out in full force to watch Meghan discuss her mixed-race heritage.

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"Hello! It is such privilege to meet all of you today and to start our visit, my first time in South Africa, here in Nyanga," she began. "We have just spent some time seeing all the incredible work that the Justice Desk does and of course all of you amazing women and the men who are here helping you, Mbokodo, you are incredible and what you’re doing is so powerful, because you're all powerful. 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 that’s been at the forefront of people's minds here in South Africa, and of course across the globe, particularly over this past month.

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"Please know that my husband and I have been closely following what you’ve been experiencing here – as best we can from afar. But now that we are with you, we are eager to learn and see first-hand the work that you’re doing, the vital work that you’re doing, and that everything that is being done on the ground is making the great change that you not only need but that you deserve.

"You have welcomed us into this community, have been open and honest with us, both about the dangers women and children face, and about how you are addressing them. The rights of women and girls is something that is very close to my heart, and the cause I have spent the majority of my life advocating for because I know that when women are empowered, the entire community flourishes."

"So to be able meet all of you today, for standing up for what's right in the face of adversity, I applaud you," she went on to explain. "We are encouraged to hear your President take the next steps to work towards preventing gender-based violence, through education and necessary changes to reinforce the values of modern South Africa. I have to say I feel incredibly humble to be in the presence of all of you as you stand firm in your core values of respect, dignity and equality.

"I read a quote a few weeks ago and it resonated with me as I've been watching what's been happening here and your efforts. Maya Angelou, the legendary poet and civil right activist, once said: 'Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.'"

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"Now I know it's not easy and I know it must feel insurmountable at times," she added. "But your commitment to what is right gives all of us hope. Especially your brothers and sisters here in your community who need you to continue to shine your light brightly. Your commitment is inspiring, it is energising, and it is extraordinary. You must keep going. You must know that what you're doing not only matters, it is vital because you are vital."

Meghan and Harry had travelled to the area, a few miles out of the city centre, to see first-hand the work of the Justice Desk, a human rights organisation, which is supporting the development of the settlement's children. Speaking about her position within the royal family, Meghan continued: "And just on one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of the Royal family I want you to know that I am here as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister. I am here with you and I am here FOR you and I thank you so much for showing my husband and I the spirit of Ubuntu and I look forward to our time over the next few days together."

Prince Harry told the rousing crowd: "Thank you very much for the warm welcome today. It was incredibly important for my wife and I to begin our trip here in Nyanga with you so thank you for having us. As someone who has visited this amazing country many times, and as someone who regards Cape Town as a uniquely special place in Africa, I wanted to ensure that our first visit as a family, with my wife by my side, focused on the significant challenges facing millions of south africans while acknowledging the hope that we feel so strongly here.

"We are so incredibly grateful to be able to listen and learn from you about the issues that define your daily lives in these communities. And that's what this is: a community. A community where men and women have a vital role to play. 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."

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