Inhumanity has become the world’s status quo. These are the words of Pakistani education activist and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai, who on Tuesday delivered the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture during a packed event held at the Joburg Theatre.
Yousafzai, who has been commended for her bravery, shared the stage with like-minded women, including Graça Machel, Nompendulo Thobile Mkhatshwa and Karima Bennoune, of Michigan, as part of the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s commemorative event following 10 years since Madiba’s passing on December 5, 2013.
She said those seeking to fight injustice in the world should seek inspiration from the former South African statesman and anti-apartheid hero.
“It is as students that we first open our eyes to injustice. It is as students that we first ask difficult questions about the world. So when I talk about what I want to share with you today, and what it means to live for a just future.
“I approach this assignment not as a lecturer, but as a student. With Mandela’s legacy in mind, I ask: What injustice is the world overlooking? Where are we allowing inhumanity to be the status quo? The answer for me is very clear and very personal. The oppression of girls and women is in abundance. My family and I know how it feels to live under the Taliban ideology. At 11, I was banned from school. At 15, I was shot and nearly killed,” she said.
She also thanked Machel for championing women’s and young girls’ issues in South Africa and across the globe.
“Thank you for fighting for girls and women everywhere and for always championing the voice of young people every day,” she said.
Yousafzai’s remarks also touched on the Taliban’s systemic oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan and raised the visibility of a growing effort to expand the definition of apartheid to include gender-based oppression.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said that like Madiba, Yousafzai has become a global icon who has championed education and human rights, earning her a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17. Head of dialogue and advocacy at the foundation, Sumaya Hendricks, indicated that the lecture will be aimed at commemorating the death of the former ANC leader.
Hendricks said having enlisted strong women to be part of the panel discussion was aimed at ensuring that the event reflects on lessons from the anti-apartheid Struggle and Madiba’s legacy. “The aim is to use Madiba’s legacy and let it inspire us in a way that shakes our consciousness and spurs us to action,” she said.
Meanwhile, there was high drama at the Union Buildings yesterday as Mandla Mandela was initially denied access to the former statesmen’s statue as he wanted to pay homage to him on the 10th anniversary of his death.
Mandla was in Pretoria partaking in a pro-Palestine march to the Union Buildings. During the peaceful march, he decided to detour and pay homage to his grandfather at the statue, but the police officers initially denied him access. They eventually conceded.
Mandla was joined by delegates from various countries to address the issues of Palestine. The group staged a demonstration to commemorate the death of Mandela and also deliver a memorandum to government.
Addressing the crowd, Mandela called for support for Palestine against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the entire land of the Palestinians.
“For the past two days, I listened to their grievances in Gaza and all over occupied Palestine. We, therefore, said today, having listened to our brothers and sisters, shared our own experiences as South Africans of our struggle for liberation,” said Mandela.
He urged people not to give up and keep on supporting Palestinians. Receiving the memorandum, Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu said she would pass the grievances to President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure that action was taken.
She said Parliament has already taken a step to close down the Israeli embassy to show support to the Palestinians.