Mandela Day: Inspiring change

Illustration: Preeti Shibu Ninan

Illustration: Preeti Shibu Ninan  

July 18 is Mandela Day. It is a celebration of a campaign for collective power to make a positive impact on the world.

Think about the words free and freedom? What do they mean to you? If you thought that they applied only to the individual, reflect on this: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

South African leader and statesman Nelson Mandela believed that every individual, irrespective of his/her age, could make a difference in the world and leave it a better place. His influence across the world is such that the United Nations has designated July 18, his birth anniversary, as Mandela Day. While the tag line is “Take Action. Inspire Change. Make Every Day A Mandela Day”, the theme this year is “Action Against Poverty.”

Poverty is responsible for many issues: lack of access to food, water, housing, education... which leads further to malnutrition, disease, low skills, unemployment and finally contributes to the rise of violence. As a result, eradication of poverty encompasses different aspects: education and literacy, food and nutrition, provision of safe shelter, sanitation, and, above all, raising your voice as a citizen against injustice and inequality. Does this seem like a big deal? Remember, just like saving water, every drop counts. If everyone waits for someone else to take action, it will be an endless wait.

Snapshots from history

Mandela Day: Inspiring change

The southernmost country in the African continent, South Africa, contains some of the oldest human fossils in the world. The caves of Gauteng Province are known as the Cradle of Humankind.

It was colonised by the Dutch and later by the British. The descendants of the first Dutch settlers were known as the Boers and they resisted the spread of the British through two wars. However they lost the Second Anglo-Boer War and British rule was established.

The indigenous people included the Bantus, the Xhosa and the Zulus. The British went to war against the Zulu kingdom as well and defeated them.

South Africa gained independence from British rule in 1931. In 1948, when the National Party came to power, racial segregation was strengthened and apartheid became a state policy.

This later became a point of conflict with other countries and South Africa was boycotted — in business, international investments, sporting engagements — because of its racial policies.

Mandela spent more than 40 years—27 of them in prison—as a central figure in the struggle against South Africa's brutal and restrictive racial regime called apartheid.

Dismantling of apartheid began in 1990 and the elections of 1994, in which the African National Congress won, saw the end of a policy of segregation based on race.

Be a Mandela

Mandela Day: Inspiring change

Study wastage in your daily life. See what you can save — water, food, power consumption — in whatever small way you can.

Feed the hungry in your community. Put together food packets and distribute.

Organise a neighbourhood cleaning drive. We complain about the garbage strewn around but forget that we are part of the problem. Promote waste segregation, create awareness and finally turn your attention to public spaces.

Teach someone who is unable to go to school or volunteer with an orphanage or an NGO that works with children. Read to them, help them with their work if they go to school or just offer a friendly shoulder.

If you like animals, volunteer with a local shelter. Clean the space, feed the animals, find out what kind of material the shelter needs and see how you can contribute.

His life

Mandela Day: Inspiring change

Born on July 18 1918, Mandela is best known for fighting against the system of apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid was the policy that saw the country segregated on racial lines. Whether social, political or economic, the Whites (a minority numerically) cornered the best of everything and the Non-whites were discriminated against.

Mandela was imprisoned in Robben Island in 1964 and was later moved to Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verser Prison and was released in 1990.

In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace jointly with FW de Klerk and became the first democratically elected President of South Africa in 1994.

After he retired from active politics in 1999, he started the Nelson Mandela Foundation and began to work to spread awareness of issues like HIV and AIDS

He died at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg house.

He was the subject of films and documentaries such as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013); Mandela (1996); Invictus (2009) and The 16th Man (2010).

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 2:09:10 AM |

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