Mandela also fought for gender equality
Published On December 28, 2013 » 3061 Views» By Hildah Lumba » Features
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NELSON Mandela as an “Extraordinary Gentleman” touched lives of many people, the young and old, as well as world leaders.

Mandela, fondly known as “Madiba”, has after his death been described by many as an “Extraordinary Gentleman” who was larger than life itself. To others “Madiba” was beyond description.

The first South African black president influenced and touched people’s lives across the spectrum, more so because he had a unique approach to all issues of human life.

On racial issues, Mandela fought against black and white domination, a move which no doubt contributed to a “New South Africa”.

The icon of South Africa’s liberation also fought injustice from all fronts just as he stated in his 1964 trial: “I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve”.

Other people compared his life to that of a saint, as he tackled issues beyond human measure.

One of the many issues he handled as such was treating his jailors as honoured guests at his inauguration when he became the first black president of South Africa.

Mandela, who once sipped tea with the widow of the “architect of apartheid” white minority rule in South Africa, can truly only be compared to a saint, for his actions were unthinkable.

His tolerance indeed united South Africa, the country today referred to as a rainbow nation.

Mandela embraced every human being and treated each individual equally without discrimination regardless of race or gender. He was indeed an “Extraordinary Gentleman”.

President of South Africa Jacob Zuma in his eulogy, described “Madiba” as the one who gave hope to those fighting for a just and equitable world order, stating that South Africans would continue to draw wisdom from his rich and extraordinary life.

United States (US) President Barack Obama at Mandela’s memorial said “Nelson Mandela reminded us that it always seems impossible until it is done.”

Describing Mandela as a man who believed in the power of action President Obama called on the young in Africa and the world to make Mandela’s works their own.

President Obama also described Mandela as “a Giant of History who moved a nation towards justice”.

But how did this “Giant of History” treat issues of gender equality?

Probably, reflecting on President Zuma’s eulogy to Mandela will clearly show how this “Giant of History” treated issues of gender and how he fought against gender inequality during his presidency.

President Zuma in his eulogy and in reference to Mandela said the following: “You (Mandela) did not only believe in gender equality, you practiced it.

“Gender equality gained prominence and seriousness under your presidency, leading to an increase in numbers of women in public office, especially in Parliament and Cabinet. We dare not reverse your achievements in this regard.”

The prominence given to the issue of gender equality at the funeral of “Madiba” truly reflected to the world the passion the “Giant of History” had towards gender issues.

It must also be acknowledged that Mandela’s actions to give gender issues prominence during his presidency also spoke volumes on what must have been on the ground at the time he took office, more so what he stood for.

Admittedly, his actions could only mean that there was a gap between women and men in leadership positions before he took office.

His actions further showed that “Justice” without doubt was what Mandela stood for and true to what he was, bridged the gap between men and women by increasing the number of women in public office.

Indeed, Mandela as President Obama said was “the last great liberator of the 20th century” for he took bold decisions others never dared to take.

Further the call by President Obama on the young to make Mandela’s works their own should not be ignored, more so in areas of gender equality.

However, the stance by President Michael Sata in addressing issues of gender equality in Zambia cannot be ignored.

President Sata appointed Stella Libongani as the first female Inspector General (IG) of Police in Zambia, something that was unthinkable before.

Admittedly, having a woman at the helm of the Zambia Police was something that one could not even visualise seven years ago.

But President Sata demonstrated to Zambians that he took issues of gender equality seriously.

The President’s move to appoint Rosewin Wandi to head the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) also clearly demonstrated that he regarded issues of gender equality with passion.

The onus is, therefore on the younger generation in this country to emulate “Mandela” and President “Sata” in fighting injustices on issues of gender to make Zambia a better place for both men and women.

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