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‘Women Will Save South Africa’ Oprah Winfrey Tells Johannesburg Crowd

dpa, Berlin

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Oprah's advice: "When people say you're full of yourself, you say 'Yeah baby I'm so full my cup's running over!'"


"Women will save South Africa!" US talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey said Thursday at an event marking late president Nelson Mandela's centenary and a global anti-gender violence campaign.

"I want to say this to the women, for a long time I was afraid when people would say to me 'she's so full of herself,' -- until I recognized that unless you are full you don't have enough to give to anybody else," Winfrey told hundreds of people gathered for her speech in Soweto.

"When people say you're full of yourself, you say 'Yeah baby I'm so full my cup's running over!'"

Winfrey, herself an abuse survivor, was joined by Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, at the Mandela Foundation event in Soweto, which is also marking the international campaign -- 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.

Also speaking is Graca Machel's daughter, Josina Z Machel, a human rights activist who lost sight in one eye after being badly assaulted by her ex-partner.

Winfrey -- whom many Democrats in the US have urged to run for president because of her huge popularity as well as philanthropy -- was a personal friend of Mandela, who became South Africa's first democratic president after spending 27 years in prison in his fight against the racist apartheid system.

Winfrey also has another connection to South Africa -- a girls school she established on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

She spoke movingly about the pupils at the school, some of whom have gone on to Oxford and other prestigious institutions of higher learning despite having come from impoverished or abusive backgrounds.

"One of the things I've learned about all the girls who come to my school -- they had such shame about their stories -- now we know and recognize there's a power in the story," the star said.

"The story can liberate you, no matter how devastating, no matter how sorrowful, no matter how challenging."

"Everything that's ever happened has happened to build your strength, and that strength equals power," she said to massive applause.

Violence against women is a huge problem in South Africa, where police recorded 40,035 rapes in the financial year 2017-18. Domestic violence is also rife, and many men in patriarchal South African society still consider women lesser.

But things are changing, especially in urban areas, where female students have led fierce feminist protests and where many in the local Twittersphere are familiar with the hashtag MeToo.

Outside the university where the event took place Thursday, two fashionably dressed young women -- among a predominantly female audience -- told dpa why they had come to hear Winfrey speak.

"I came to just hear how she speaks to an issue which really affects Africa greatly," fashion designer Kgalalelo Gaitate, 28, told dpa.

"It's good for us to have women like that to look up to, especially when we're still trying to find women's empowerment," added Mamahlape Matsoso, a 24-year-old student.

In her speech, Winfrey also spoke about her close relationship with Madiba, while Graca Machel recounted how she had invited Winfrey to speak at the centenary event so "father will feel that the celebrations are complete." Machel also said Winfrey, as an icon and advocate for women, was the perfect speaker.

"We are a wounded society, because it is true, we know all the atrocities that are being committed against children and women," Machel said of South Africa.

"But, as she said quite rightly, women will heal this nation ... and, I'm adding, women will heal this continent."

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