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United Way Blog

Embracing Mandela Day: Taking Action for Stronger Communities

On July 18, the world honors the indelible legacy of Nelson Mandela. In 2010, the United Nations invited the global community to celebrate Mandela's birthday by taking transformative action to improve our communities. 

Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to fighting for social justice, and his legacy is a powerful reminder of his values and principles. It calls us to reflect on the challenges our world faces — including poverty, inequality, and climate change — and to take action to address them. 

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for resisting the ruling National Party's apartheid policies. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison. Still, he became widely accepted as the most significant Black leader in South Africa, and a powerful symbol of resistance to the apartheid regime. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom. Four years after his 1990 release, Mandela was elected President of South Africa. He stands in the record of human history as a liberator and leader who, through personal sacrifice, exemplified the individual's power to change the world. 

To many in South Africa, he was a father, an icon, and an inspiration. United Way South Africa (UWSA), too, is motivated by his values and principles. 

"Nelson Mandela International Day recognizes his values and his dedication to the service of humanity in conflict resolution, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups,“ says Queen Mokonoto, UWSA's Executive Director.

This thinking underscores the long-term social change United Way South Africa and its partners are fueling in the country, focused on closing gaps and opening opportunities so all can thrive. United Way South Africa is committed to improving education, financial stability, and health, inspired by Mandela’s legacy that seeks to bring peace and justice to all mankind. By uniting and connecting all sectors of society, UWSA addresses systemic issues and improves lives. 

Throughout July, United Way South Africa is undertaking several initiatives to improve the communities it serves. In the Ekurhuleni Metropol in Gauteng Province, United Way is planting trees and enhancing food gardens in select schools. In the community of Tembisa, United Way-led school gardens are fostering collaboration, communication, and shared responsibility among community members. These gardens provide fresh produce for nutritious meals, address food security, and teach young people about environmental stewardship. And collaboration among community members, parents, and students is strengthening social bonds and empowering individuals to take make a meaningful difference in their community. 

Other UWSA programs, like the Urban Agricultural Programme (UAP), support income stability and social justice. The UAP empowers women in these communities by providing opportunities for income generation through sustainable farming practices. By doing so, UWSA promotes economic independence and contributes to a more equitable society.

Nelson Mandela's legacy deeply influences UWSA's work and is aligned with his vision of a society where everyone, everywhere, has access to education, income stability, and good health. By addressing food insecurity, promoting sustainable agriculture, and empowering women, United Way ensures that these communities thrive and grow stronger.

As we commemorate Mandela Day, we witness the profound impact that one person's actions can have on communities and individuals. Nelson Mandela's legacy inspires us to act, embrace diversity, and work towards a more equitable and inclusive society. UWSA exemplifies this spirit through its dedicated efforts in education, income stability, and health programs. 

By supporting United Way South Africa’s initiatives and others worldwide, each of us can can advance the goal of a better future for our communities.  Join us and discover what you can do by connecting with your local United Way.