Mandela Day to focus on tackling poverty

Action against Poverty is this year’s theme for Nelson Mandela International Day and South Africans are being encouraged to work together to uproot poverty.

nelson mandela international day sello hatang
Brand South Africa’s Keineloe Phakathi, Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive, Sello Hatang, Brand South Africa’s stakeholder relationship manager, Thoko Modise, and Play Your Part ambassador, Neo Mafokwane, were all guests at the Nelson Mandela International Day launch held in Johannesburg. (Images Melissa Javan)

Melissa Javan
For this year’s Nelson Mandela International Day, South Africans are being called to work together to uproot poverty in the country. This was the main message at the Mandela Day launch held at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, on Wednesday, 10 May. The launch fell on the same date as Madiba’s presidential inauguration in 1994.

By launching with the theme “Action against Poverty” for this year’s Mandela Day, the Nelson Mandela Foundation firmly believes it is possible to rid the country of this scourge.

According to the foundation’s chief executive, Sello Hatang, Mandela Day has grown quickly since its first year. In 2009, it was launched in two cities – Johannesburg and New York. “We had about ten activations then. Now we have 146 countries participating in Nelson Mandela International Day and we have over a million activations all over the world.”

nelson mandela international day sandiso sibisi
Sandiso Sibisi, one of the Play Your Part ambassadors, also attended the event.

In November 2009, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly declared 18 July – the day Madiba was bornNelson Mandela International Day. This was in recognition of the former statesman’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

On this day every year, people all over the world join the call to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others.

“For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of South Africa,” says the UN on their official website.

Watch how one organisation celebrated Mandela Day a few years ago:

Poverty affects children’s wellbeing

Hatang said 63% of South African children live in poverty. This, he explained, affects their cognitive, physical and emotional being.

He added that there are one in five people living in extreme poverty in the country. He encouraged all South Africans to continue to take action against it.

Quoting another great leader, Mahatma Gandhi, Hatang said: “May you be the change you would like to see in the future.”

“Use your talents, skills”

Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon, an international humanitarian and former media personality who spoke at the launch, said we can change our country from the inside out by giving what we already have. She added that people should use their skills and talents to help others.

Elsdon, who was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) 15 years ago, called on others to visit children who are hospitalised because of TB. She suggested keeping the children stimulated, especially by reading books to them.

After her own battle with the disease, Elsdon looked for support to build awareness on TB. She learnt that those willing to help were not celebrities, but ordinary people. “I realised that if they could do something, so can I. They were volunteers. Giving of yourself changes not only your life but the lives of others.”

“It is possible to uproot poverty”

nelson mandela international day mamphela ramphele
Dr Mamphela Ramphele, a politician, medical doctor and former activist, is on the board of trustees on the Nelson Mandela Foundation. She called on all South Africans to uproot poverty together.

Former political activist, medical doctor and politician, Mamphela Ramphele, said South Africans should work together to liberate everyone and uproot poverty.

Ramphele, who is on the board of trustees at the foundation, said we should follow the values of the Constitution and use it as a guide. To her, what’s missing in South Africa is the political will to uproot poverty and empathy for each other. “We need healing to unleash empathy, to uproot poverty, to make poverty history.

“We as a foundation believe it is possible [to get rid of poverty]. We have done much more difficult things we didn’t think we could do. We can do this,” she said.

Safety of women an issue in townships

The Soul City Institute, a social justice organisation, held a dialogue to discuss safety of women who make use of taxis.

The campaign #SafeTaxisNow was created for the month of May. The discussion revealed that a national safe taxi charter will be drafted, which will speak about, among other concerns, every woman’s right to know her taxi driver.

It was also said that the month-long campaign will organise self-defence classes for women and awareness events to talk about their rights.

Here are some of the messages shared on Twitter about the dialogue:

If you would like to know more about Mandela Day, visit the site here.

Sources: Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mandela Day, United Nations and the Soul City Institute.

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