This week, Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa and anti-apartheid leader, celebrated his 95th birthday in a hospital in Pretoria. After spending five months in Cape Town while studying abroad, I have learned a great deal about Mandela and his fight against national and global oppression.
While Mandela has fought hard for racial equality in South Africa, he also recognizes the importance of gender equality for women around the world. He may not have referred to himself as a feminist in the past, but Mandela has spoken previously about his support for women’s rights, an issue that is still a struggle for women in South Africa.
In celebration of Mandela’s 95th, I have rounded up a few of his inspiring quotes.
On the end of gender inequality:
“There is no easy walk to freedom. Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”
“[We should see to it] 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.”
“Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference.”
On the importance of education for both boys and girls throughout the world:
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
On the end of abuse against women:
“We must combat such social pathologies as widespread poverty, the break down of family life, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, the abuse of children, women and the elderly and the painful reality of street children.”
On the American Dream:
“You did so in the full understanding that the American dream is a dream that all the world’s people deserve; that a new world is in the making in which humanity should be united in its diversity of race, gender, language and religion.”
A true fighter against all inequalities, Mandela has served as a true icon throughout the last couple of decades, and I hope his birthday was filled with the pride and honor he deserves. Imini emnandi kuwe, Mandela! (Happy Birthday, Mandela!)