Nelson Mandela International Day, also known as Mandela Day, is held on July 18 annually. In recognition of Mandela’s contribution to peaceful efforts, promotion of human rights, democracy and addressing racial issues, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring July 18, Mandela’s birth date, as “Nelson Mandela International Day”.
Mandela Day is a global observance day to dedicate Mandela’s achievements in working towards conflict resolution, democracy, human rights, peace, and reconciliation. People are asked to recognize their power and ability to impact positively on the environment and people.
Initially campaigns were launched to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS. Over time, the focus expanded to support broader humanitarian work by charitable organizations. Many people and organizations around the world take part in many activities to promote Nelson Mandela Day. These activities include volunteering, sport, art, education, music and culture. Various events are also held on or around July 18 to honor Nelson Mandela’s works and to promote the different projects that were inspired by Mandela’s achievements.
Born, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, into the Madiba clan in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. Mandela’s parents died whilst he was very young and as a result, he became the ward of the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Having heard stories of his ancestors’ bravery during the wars of resistance, young Nelson dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.
After a few hits and misses, Mandela finally finished his studies for a LLB through the University of South Africa and graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.
Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form and worked with the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). Together, Oliver Tambo and Nelson established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo.
When people protested against the pass laws, police killed 69 unarmed people in Sharpeville. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the ANC was banned. Mandela and his colleagues were among his thousands detained during the state of emergency. It is during this time of the Treason Trial that Mandela married second wife, a social worker, Winnie Madikizela.
After Mandela and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial, Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike which was called off. Mandela was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation).
He was jailed in 1963 for leading the liberation movement against apartheid and for his stance on the human right to live in freedom. For 27 years, Mandela who was imprisoned in Robben Island, in Cape Town was known as Prisoner “46664”. His release from prison in 1990 contributed to South Africa’s transition towards a multi-racial democracy. Mandela went on to address racial prejudices passionately and supported all attempts at reconciliation. His efforts were recognised and Mandela became South Africa’s president in 1994 until 1999. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, together with another former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk, in 1993 “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa”.
Photos: The Nobel Foundation
Mandela Day celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact. The Mandela Day campaign message is :
“Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes.”
“We would be honoured if such a day can serve to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace, reconciliation and cultural diversity,” according to a statement issued on Mandela’s behalf.
Mandela’s input towards South Africa’s history, “devotion to humanity and to humanitarian causes” was a gift. In that spirit, South Africans are committed to his vision and uses 67 minutes on Mandela day to promote good deeds, one which was very close to Mandela’s heart, alleviating and fighting poverty. As Mandela said: “It is in your hands to make of the world a better place.”
Every year on Mandela Day, people around the world to asked to take action and inspire change by making a difference in their communities.
Considering the poverty and environmental pollutions, one daily act in recognition of Mandela Day celebrates Mandela’s legacy in a sustainable way that will bring about enduring change and make this world and its inhabitants kinder and more sustainable for all the generations to come.
South Africans have taken action and inspired changed change. Should you like to donate your own time to public service, here are some things you can do to take action and inspire change:
- Clean out your children’s rooms of old toys, donate it to the children’s hospital.
- Support financially challenged children by educating them to feed themselves and their families. Donate the makings of a vegetable garden to an impoverished family.
- Try to learn a new language to be able to interact with someone from a different culture. Promote tolerance and patience and discourage xenophobia
- Visit a pharmacy and purchase a couple of pairs of spectacles, donate and have fun with seniors at an old age home as they test their renewed visibility.
- Save an animal, adopt a pet or help out at the local animal shelter.
- Get tested for HIV and encourage your partner to do so too.
- Donate a wheelchair to someone in need.
- July equates winter here in South Africa. Donate blankets to a charitable organization.
- Join KNITWITS for Mandela and crochet/knit scarves to donate to the needy.
- Join 67 blankets and crochet/knit blankets and “hug” someone with warmth this winter.
- Prepare a warm meal and deliver it to a feeble/old person.
- Arrange for a fete in the garden of an old age home, donate the proceeds to the home.
- Arrange a social gathering out and AWAY from the old age home, that could be the only outing that person may have.
- BE an example, take a child under your wing at school, help prevent bullying.
- Say something good and kind to someone and MEAN it.
Despite South Africa having lost their “Tata” (meaning Father) five years ago, Mandela remains one of the most well-known anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. Having seen his prison cell, plate and cup in Robben Island and his stark living conditions for twenty seven years, his sacrifice must not be in vain and we celebrate our icon. Join us, it will be 67 minutes well spent.