The man who liberated his nation from racial apartheid is also perhaps the model for Citizen Social Responsibility (CSR) whose values live on, seven years after he bid the world goodbye. It’s these values of peace and equality that are honoured on July 18th every year, celebrated as Nelson Mandela International Day.
Nelson Mandela International Day 2020
For over a decade, this special day has mobilised corporates, governments, social organisations, and most importantly, global citizens in making the world a better place.
United Nations Chief António Guterres said in his video message for Nelson Mandela International Day 2020:
“Madiba was a moral giant of the 20th century, whose timeless legacy continues to guide us today. The theme of Nelson Mandela International Day is ‘Take action, inspire change’. It highlights the importance of working together, from governments to citizens, to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world. We mark this day at a time when the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic endangers everyone, everywhere, and especially the most vulnerable. In the face of these challenges, world leaders need to recognize the vital importance of unity and solidarity.”
Watch his special message below:
A role model for today
Nowhere would inspiration-starved millennials find a more perfect role model to emulate than Madiba (as he’s fondly known). His values have become all the more relevant today, as citizens rise up against racial inequality, gender bias, social injustice, human rights violations and urban-rural divides.
Much after he inked a formal end to apartheid in racially-divided South Africa, the man dubbed as the ‘Gandhi of South Africa’ continued to be an activist for all manner of justice. He went on to become the President of a new-and-improved South Africa and win the Nobel Peace Prize. However, his ideas and acts of peace weren’t restricted to his nation. They had a positive ripple effect on the rest of the world in ways one would never have imagined.
Mandela stood for women’s lib
His first speech as President back in 1994 showed his commitment to women’s emancipation. He stated:
“It is vitally important that all structures of government, including the President himself, should understand this fully: that freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. The objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme will not have been realized unless we see in visible and practical terms that the condition of the women of our country has radically changed for the better… And that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life as equals with any other member of society.”
Mandela backed up his promise with a gender-inclusive parliament. Before he came on board, women occupied only 2.7% of the seats. Within 20 years, that figure rose to 44%, nearly half the legislature.
Mandela brought education to the villages
Mandiba echoed the sentiments of another iconic figure, Mahatma Gandhi when he said:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Many far-off rural areas in our country do not become confident readers and writers. Indeed, they are denied the creativity that in turn denies the world the boldness of their ideas.”
Although kids of all races largely attended school, the quality of education in rural areas was abysmal. Nelson Mandela Institute for Rural Development and Education has been training teachers for rural education since 2007.
Mandela was a champion for child rights
He set up the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund for ending hunger, exploitation and homelessness in African children with a genuine child rights-based movement. As President, he donated one-third of his salary to this organisation. Rather than basking in the glory of his Nobel, he donated a large part of the sum from the Prize to support street kids.
Mandela was an activist until the end
His activism didn’t stop at his nation’s expanse. He played peacemaker in the Congo and Burundi after he retired as President of South Africa. He travelled round the world, spreading his message of goodwill and influenced many positive decisions at the global scale. His foundation continues the work Mandiba started.
Mandela continues to be an inspiration for anti-racism and the civil rights movement, to date. He went beyond the call of duty as President to fulfil his citizen social responsibility. His work in human rights has made him a global icon for and justice and an exemplary citizen to model yourself after.