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Remembering Nelson Mandela’s Pursuit of Justice, Equality for All

Imagine 2050 Staff • Dec 11, 2013

The global community suffered a terrible loss with the passing of Nelson Mandela last Thursday. Through his iconic efforts in pursuit of equality in South Africa, Mandela firmly established himself as a freedom fighter and became an inspiration to all who seek to create a more just world for everyone. Since news of his passing broke there has – rightfully so – been an outpouring of support and praise of Mandela and his life.  

Mandela is certainly most well—known for becoming the face of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. His release from prison and subsequent election as South Africa’s first black president became a watershed moment for global civil rights. The monumental circumstances surrounding his election and the downfall of South Africa’s apartheid system has perhaps overshadowed many of Mandela’s efforts for equality and justice in areas other than race. While Mandela’s vital role facilitating racial reconciliation in South Africa should never be diminished, his work towards bringing justice and equality in other areas should be noted as well.

As Ilyse Hogue wrote this week in The Nation, South Africa’s constitution ratified after Mandela’s election made discrimination impermissible not just on the grounds of race, but also  gender. It also read:

“Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right

a.  to make decisions concerning reproduction (emphasis added by Hogue)
b.  to security in and control over their body; and
c.  not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent.”

Inspired by Mandela’s true devotion to equality for all, Hogue concludes her piece thusly:

“Tribute after tribute has unfolded with this chapter deleted, leaving all the successes and gains for South African women invisible. I am not going to bow to that pressure to hold my tongue. I will praise Mandela loudly and proudly for refusing to leave women behind. And if enough of us do so, maybe someday soon all women can be assured the respect and freedom that Mandela fought to bring to the women of South Africa.”

Tirelessly working to end discrimination and inequality along racial and gender lines was not Mandela’s only focus. He was also a champion of the environment. As Brentin Mock notes in a piece last week for Grist, Mandela founded The Elders, an organization of global leaders to help solve issues facing the global community. According to Mock, “One of the group’s top priorities is climate justice, which is not only about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also about ensuring the protection of those people and regions most vulnerable to the worst of climate change’s impacts.”

The Elders continue to work admirably in this area recognizing “the disproportionate impact of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable,” and supporting “transformative leadership to deliver a sustainable, secure and more equitable world.”

It is in these struggles for justice and equality – and the scope in which he directed them – that Nelson Mandela has become such an admired figure. His legacy will never be forgotten and will continue to be a source of inspiration for all attempting to further the work he dedicated his life to.


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