Mandela Day from Ayodele Odusola, UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa
South Africa has faced multiple crises over the past three years. From the pandemic, to the civil unrest, the flooding disasters and only recently the loss of young lives in communities in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng provinces. With the rising costs from these devastating events and global economic stressors, it is evident that a Mandela Day is more relevant than ever before.
Daily, in the media, we read and view the real-life stories of people living in the most arduous circumstances, some resigning from their jobs because their transport costs are higher than their salaries. There are a greater number of people who are going to bed hungry, at the mercy of volunteers, organizations and gestures of kindness from you and I.
Last year, in the Kwazulu-Natal province, we hosted a summit with people living with disabilities and it became clear that while policies are in place to address their challenges by both government and the UN, much more needs to be done in the implementation of those policies. According to the World Health Organization around 15 per cent of the world’s population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities. They are the world’s largest minority. This year, I’m delighted to share that the United Nations in South Africa is partnering with the Gift of the Givers organization to distribute wheelchairs and other utilities to people, young and old, living with disabilities across the Gauteng province.
Our aim, at the UN, is to leave no-one behind and just as disability does not discriminate against age, race, gender etc, neither should we in all our plans to build a better South Africa and realize the vision of the iconic Madiba. I echo the sentiments of the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres who, in his message to mark this day, says that Madiba “showed that each and every one of us has the ability – and responsibility – to build a better future for all.”
We have a responsibility to say no to hate and any forms of discrimination, whether it be in person or online as we are well aware that once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back and the impact on mental health from the spread of hate is detrimental. Indeed, words can be weapons.
In South Africa, we live by the concept of ubuntu - that we are human only through the humanity of others and that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it is due to the effort of many. I encourage all of us living in South Africa to continue to do what we can with what we have for as Madiba says and I quote “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”
I thank you.
UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa