The duchess used her first public event of the tour - talking to teenage girls at the Nyanga township in Cape Town - to highlight her mixed-race heritage.
The duchess said: “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.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended an event to learn about the work of the Justice Desk, an advocacy group for human rights.
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”.
The couple’s son Archie, who is with them on the tour, was not present.
Meghan, 38, and Harry, 35, were pictured interacting with and hugging locals, with the new mum receiving a warm embrace from one child.
Meghan was all smiles, dancing with locals as Prince Harry and crowds looked on.
The couple were cheered on by schoolchildren waving the national flag as they arrived at Nyanga Methodist Church, where they watched dancers perform in traditional costume.
The couple shared an intimate moment, which was caught on camera, as Harry adjusted his wife’s hair.
"While I am here with my husband as a member of the Royal Family, I am here with you as a woman, as a wife, as a woman of colour and as your sister."— Omid Scobie (@scobie) September 23, 2019
The Duchess of Sussex pic.twitter.com/o4zjTujsc5
For the engagement, Meghan wore a pair of Castañer wedges and a monochrome printed wrap dress by Mayamiko, a sustainable and ethical womanswear label set up by founder Paola Masperi after she did extensive travel in Malawi, southeast Africa.
Later on Monday, to complete the first day of their tour, they will be touring the District Six Museum to learn about its work to reunite community members forcibly relocated during the apartheid era, before joining in a community cooking activity with former District Six residents at the nearby Homecoming Centre.
This 10-day royal tour, taken at the request of the Foreign Office, marks the first the Sussexes have undertaken with their son.
Following a couple of days in Cape Town attending engagements with Meghan – and possibly Archie – Prince Harry will then visit Botswana, Angola and Malawi while Meghan and Archie remain in South Africa.
The tour serves as an opportunity for the Duke and Duchess to highlight “many of the causes that they have been involved with for many years,” a statement from the couple’s communications secretary ahead of the tour said.
Further tour engagements for the Sussexes will focus on “community, grassroots leadership, women’s and girls’ rights, mental health, HIV/AIDS and the environment”, an Instagram post from Sussex Royal said on 6 September.
This is not Harry and Meghan’s first royal tour. The pair completed an earlier royal tour in autumn last year, travelling to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. The Duchess’s pregnancy with Archie was announced during the trip.