1 300 delegates from 190 countries at the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg.
• Amanda Mahlobi
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South African struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada reminisced about his first encounter with former President and international icon Nelson Mandela, affectionately called Tata or Madiba, among 1 300 delegates from 190 countries at the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg.
Paying homage to the former statesman during a special session on Knowing Nelson Mandela, Kathrada said, “When I met this man, when I was at school, he asked me questions about myself and what I was going to do with my life. . . He made me feel so comfortable and equal to him that I felt proud I could go back to my school friends and boast that I knew a university student.”
Speaking about the trial that led to their conviction, Kathrada revealed how Madiba insisted on using the opportunity to make a political statement: “What he said, what we all followed when we gave evidence, is to go into the box, repeat your political views and do not apologise. Even if it’s a death sentence, we don’t appeal.”
A visibly emotional Kathrada spoke of the racial segregation experienced at the hands of their prison guards: “Of the seven of us I was the only Indian. The first thing we had to do was change into prison clothes. I was given long trousers, while Madiba and all my colleagues were given short trousers. The rationale was that all blacks, regardless of their age, were children and children wore short trousers.”
Kathrada was joined on stage by a teary-eyed Francois Pienaar and delegate Nobulalu Lali Dangazele to share intimate insights into their relationships with Madiba.
Pienaar, who captained the South African rugby team, the Springboks, to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, revealed the moment he first encountered Mandela saying: “I get a telephone call from Mary, Mr Mandela’s assistant, who says: ‘He would like to have tea with you’ – incredible.
“My first thoughts were: ‘Why? What does he want to talk to me about?’ Then I became a chick and started worrying about what clothes I would wear.”
He revealed: “I remember his booming voice and the size of the man. He took me into his office, poured me tea and for about an hour we sat and talked about life, politics and sport.”
Mandela surprised the rugby team when South Africa reached the final of the world cup, Pienaar said. “We were getting ready for the game and there was a knock at the door… it was Mandela. What was he wearing? A Springboks jersey.
“Often you hear great speeches from leaders, but do they follow through? Mandela is someone who did.”
Pienaar quoted the former statesman, saying that sports can awaken hope where there was previously despair and has the potential to drive awareness of wider societal issues.
Mandela Rhodes scholar, Lali Dangazele, spoke of how, after her first meeting with Madiba, he transformed into a father-like figure. She added that Madiba’s firm belief in the power of education left a significant impact on her: “He firmly believed that education is the silver bullet – the key that unlocks liberation.”
Kofi Annan speaks “global issues”
Following suit another special session ensued with the Kofi Annan Dialogues: Live. During this session delegates from South Africa, El Salvador, Libya and Nigeria spoke to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate via live-stream on a Google Hangout.
Issue tabled ranged from the security in Nigeria and El Salvador to the on-going Syrian crisis.
Annan said we are now living in a time of unprecedented change, and that as growth develops, new challenges arise at national, regional and global levels. He spoke about international issues such as youth unemployment, climate change, food and nutrition security, international security, transnational crime, sustainable development, terrorism and religious extremism.
He added that people have the power to make a change if they organise and use the strength of a collective voice, and that problems are without visas and passports.
He continued, saying that in order to address these problems, it is important to begin with cohesive societies. The three core pillars of a cohesive society, according to Annan, are peace and stability, development, rule of law and respect for human rights.
“Change takes time. It is not an event, it is a process,” he said.
During an on-the-spot survey at the summit, 48% of attendees believed that gender equality is the number one global human rights issue.
According to a statement from One Young World, “From career-based discrimination to crushing poverty and violence, women’s rights are routinely violated on a daily basis. Violence causes more death and disability worldwide amongst women aged 15 – 44 than war, cancer, malaria and traffic accidents combined. Of all the illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women. Globally, women make up just 17% of parliamentarians, and of the FTSE 100 companies, only three have women CEOs.”
Delegate speakers for this session included Mohammad Almunaikh (Kuwait), Amanda Dufresne (United States of America(US)), Ilwad Elman (Somalia), Sally Hasler (Hong Kong), Kaierouann Imarah Radix (Guyana), and Emily Revess (United Kingdom(UK)).
Dufresne, a rape survivor, spoke out about sexual violence being a silent epidemic. Holding back her tears, she shared her personal story, saying, “In the US recently, statistics show up to one in five women will be raped in their lifetime.
“We need to talk to young boys about respecting girls’ minds, bodies, and souls; to treat them as equals,” she said.
According to Elman, one in three women will be beaten and raped in their lifetime. She runs the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu with her mother, Fartun Adan. Most recently, Elman’s organisation established Sister Somalia, the only safe-house in Somalia. It is dedicated to providing support to survivors of sexual violence.
An insightful session on Youth Unemployment, on day three of the summit on 4 October, highlighted that despite the vast majority (80% of attendees) believing the number of unemployed young people in their country will not fall in the next 12 months, even more (91%) believe it is possible to solve the problem.
Almost a quarter of the planet’s youth are neither working nor studying.
Youth unemployment is a high priority for the One Young World community, which overwhelmingly elected to have the topic on the summit agenda for the first time.
The delegation, James Eder (UK), Adelard Kakunze (Burundi), Jeremy Lamri (France), Rukayat Olamide (Nigeria), Efehan Danisman (Turkey) and Yiwen Wu (China), looked at youth creating their own employment opportunities.
Danisman said, “73 million young people will be unemployed this year,” while Kakunze added that “Burundi is among 15 countries with the highest unemployment rate in the world.
“It is about being proactive and about taking responsibility for your contribution in the world,” said Eder.
According to Johannesburg executive mayor, Mpho Parks Tau, “It is important that the youth work together with their leaders to find solutions to the challenges of youth unemployment, and the One Young World Summit 2013 presents an ideal platform for this exchange of ideas to happen.”
One Young World was founded in 2009 by David Jones and Kate Robertson. This London-based charity gathers together youth from across the globe in an attempt to establish lasting relationships to drive positive change.
The charity stages annual summits where young delegates, backed by One Young World counsellors, debate and formulate solutions for international issues. After the summit, the One Young World ambassadors work on their own initiatives, or lend the power of the summit’s network to those already in place.