On July 18, the world will remember the legacy of Nelson Mandela, one of the most important and charismatic leaders in history. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was more than just a statesman; he was an African man who stood up for his people in the name of freedom, fairness and peace. Although he spent a great part of his adult life in prison due to his political beliefs, his efforts prevailed upon his release and democratic election as President of South Africa.
In 2009, the United Nations resolved to declare July 18 Nelson Mandela International Day to recognize and celebrate his work towards promoting human rights, social justice, personal freedom, peace, reconciliation, and the eradication of poverty. In 2015, the UN added humane prison conditions to the list of ideals promoted and celebrated on Mandela Day.
For 2017, the Nelson Mandela Foundation wants to focus Mandela Day celebrations on taking action against poverty. There is a misconception in the sense that many people believe that Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. only shared in common their desire to fight apartheid and segregation. Both Mandela and King believed that socioeconomic inequality is to blame for a significant portion of societal discord, and they also believed that eradication of poverty should be a top priority for the entire world.
In social media, the hashtag #ActionAgainstPoverty will be used this year to promote awareness about how poverty and inequality are pernicious roots of evil in Africa and across the developing world. After Mandela completed his presidential mandate, he conceded that there was a lot of work still left to do in relation to socioeconomic equality.
Looking at the BRICS bloc comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, it is clear to see that the fast development taking place in these economic giants is largely uneven. These nations have troubling levels of poverty that contradict their economic development. South Africa may be a promising nation, but there are still many problems related to malnutrition, violent crime, indignity, unemployment, and inequality; these are situations experienced across the Continent.
Each Mandela Day, people around the world are asked to dedicate 67 minutes of their time for the purpose of taking action on some of Mandela’s ideals and teachings. As Mandela explained: we can change the world in a positive way if we all get involved, and thus here are some of the actions that will be taken against poverty on July 18:
- In Central South Africa, a radio station is coordinating a blanket donation drive. Closer to Johannesburg, knitting groups are busy making comforters and sweaters for the poor.
- Numerous local activities have been scheduled across the Continent through the Young African Leaders Initiative.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation has issued a guide to help inspire individuals who wish to get involved. Below are just a few suggestions to help those in need within your local community for Mandela Day:
- Donate educational materials to Breadline Africa;
- Organise a fun outing for children in an HIV/AIDS programme;
- Offer to mow the lawn and fix up the garden at a nursing home or hospice;
- Hold a teddy bear or book drive for a children’s home;
- Teach someone how to use a computer and the Internet;
- Donate your old computer to an under-resourced school;
- Tutor pupils from under-resourced schools;
- Donate books to your local library.