Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan begin their first overseas tour on Monday since the birth of their first child, starting in South Africa, with Harry then rekindling memories of their courtship in Botswana and of his mother Diana in Angola.
Meghan, a former U.S. actress, has had only one official engagement since giving birth to Archie in May.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expected to meet anti-apartheid cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other dignitaries in South Africa, but chose to begin their tour in a township known as the country’s “murder capital”.
The royal couple will visit The Justice Desk, a group that teaches self-defence and empowerment to vulnerable children, many of whom have suffered trauma – crucial skills in a place where thousands live cheek-by-jowl in a squalid sea of tin and wood shacks, and where violence is a daily reality.
Speaking at the Nyanda Methodist Church, whose windows are protected by heavy bars against burglars, Theodora Lutuli of The Justice Desk said the organisation was having a huge impact in the community by making children aware of their rights.
“They will tell you this is my body, it belongs to me… That is what they are being taught and we are saying if it starts from there, then we are guaranteed a better future,” said Lutuli, the organisation’s community liaison officer.
The Justice Desk’s founder, Jessie Dewhurst, received the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2016 for helping thousands of youngsters in 17 projects across South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Dewhurst said that, although South Africa has sound laws and systems, many in the townships lack the awareness that would, for example, empower them to stand their ground when trying to lay domestic violence charges at police stations, instead of being turned away.
“When I was quite young I experienced gender-based violence and it was dealt with very quickly, but that is not the case for many of our young women in townships,” she said, adding that she enjoyed privileges others do not because of her white skin.
SINGING AND DANCING
Ahead of the royal couple’s arrival, a small crowd of around 100 gathered outside the church, singing and dancing to the beat of a marimba band, while a throng of local and international media jostled for positions.
Children, some of them of nursery age, wore white Justice Desk t-shirts bearing the words “I’m not too young to be heard”.
Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and seventh in line to the throne, has been visiting southern Africa for two decades for holidays and conservation work.
He will travel on alone for a working visit to Botswana, where the couple went shortly after they began dating in July 2016 and returned in 2017 for a romantic getaway to celebrate Meghan’s 36th birthday.
Harry, 34, then heads to Angola, visiting the landmine clearance project that featured in some of the most famous photographs of his late mother, Princess Diana.
He ends the solo section of his tour in Malawi, where he will meet President Peter Mutharika, before rejoining Meghan and Archie in South Africa for another township visit, this time near Johannesburg.