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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex celebrate youth leadership and female empowerment as they kick off their tour of Africa

On 23rd September 2019, The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) President and Vice-President, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, attended a community celebration in Nyanga, a township that has high levels of poverty and inequality, and where women and children are particularly at risk. The event was hosted by The Justice Desk, a youth-led human rights organisation which has been supported by QCT since 2018. The visit celebrated the dignity and solidarity of a community that faces significant challenges, and recognised the action being taken by young leaders to drive positive change. The children of Nyanga gave the Duke and Duchess of Sussex an ecstatic welcome to Cape Town as Their Royal Highnesses started their tour of Africa.

As President and Vice-President of QCT, The Duke and Duchess are keen to use their time in Cape Town to highlight the positive work of young leaders in their communities. They both have a longstanding belief in young people and passionately support their ability to spark change through their leadership, passion and creative ideas. The Justice Desk is youth-led and youth driven, and works in collaboration with local communities to drive change. It educates, advocates for and equips young people, vulnerable groups, and civil society at large to better understand and defend their human rights. Through the provision of digital resources, The Justice Desk also takes its message around the world. Since 2013, over 70,000 people have participated in its programmes in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which have impacted over 230,000 lives.

During the visit, TRHs met in private with the Mbokodo Club, a women’s empowerment project set up in partnership with The Justice Desk in the heart of Nyanga. The club focuses on helping young women who have experienced major trauma re-engage with those around them through two key programmes. The first centres around self-defence classes, and the second is the facilitation of female empowerment workshops, that focus on topics from consent and sexual health rights to self-esteem building, goal setting and many others. The club has adopted the motto “wathint’abafazi wathint’imbokodo” which translates to “you strike a woman; you strike a rock.” In order to help these young women re-engage with men, the programme also involves young men, who act as coaches and mentors for the girls.

Their Royal Highnesses were treated to a private tour of the club’s facilities and workshops by some of the members, before walking back out into the community celebrations where they each gave a short speech.

With female empowerment a key topic of interest for The Duchess of Sussex, she praised the Mbokodo Club members for their resilience and strength:

“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, energizing, and extraordinary. You must keep going, you must know that what you’re doing not only matters, it is vital, because you are vital.”

The Duke of Sussex spoke to the importance of community leadership in driving positive change:

“Your determination here in this township to overcome extreme adversity is testament to leadership shown by people like Theodora and many organisations who offer vital support on a daily basis. Meghan and I are truly inspired by your resilience, your spirit, your sense of community, and your belief in a better future for everyone here… We applaud those of you who are leading the way for South Africa’s ongoing transformation.”

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust exists to champion, fund and connect young leaders who are working hard to change the world. Through their work as President and Vice-President of The Trust, Their Royal Highnesses are committed to championing young leaders as a global movement for good. During this tour, The Duke and Duchess are excited to have the opportunity to meet with and highlight the work of young leaders, like those at The Justice Desk, who are mobilising change and helping to create a brighter future.

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