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Graça Machel – Biography Of An International Advocate Of Women’s And Child’s Right

Graça Machel

Graça Machel is a Mozambican politician and humanitarian. She is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and the founder of the Graça Machel Trust.

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Also, she is a former freedom fighter and first minister of education and culture in Mozambique, 1975 – 1989. Besides, Graça is the only woman who has served twice as the first lady of two different countries – she was Mozambique’s first lady in 1975 – 1986 and South Africa’s First Lady in 1998 – 1999.

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Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don’t Have An Idea

Generally, Graça has gained widespread recognition. For instance, she was named one of the most powerful women in Africa in January 2020. Also, she is a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

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Graça Machel

Graça Machel Biography

Graça Simbine was born on October 17, 1945, in the rural part of Gaza province, Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique). She was born as the youngest of six children a few weeks after her father’s death.

Firstly, she attended Methodist mission schools. Then, the University of Lisbon, Portugal, where she studied German on scholarship in 1968. As a student, Graça got involved in political activities.

See Also: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Biography Of The First Female President In Africa.

Graça Machel Early Career

Firstly, when Machel returned, in 1973, she joined the Marxist-based Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO), became a freedom fighter and school teacher. Then, after the declaration of Mozambique’s independence, she became Mozambique’s first Minister for Education and Culture.

As an Education Minister, she worked to implement FRELIMO’s goal of universal education for all Mozambicans. Also, during her tenure, the number of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools rose from about 40 percent of all school-aged children to over 90 percent for males and 75 percent for females.  

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Personal Life

Graça is a widow of the former Presidents of Mozambique, Samora Machel, and former South African president, Nelson Mandela.

Samora Machel is the first president of Mozambique. He died in a plane crash on October 16, 1986. Then, in 1998, she married Nelson Mandela, the first post-apartheid president of South Africa and remained married to him until his demise in 2013.

In addition, she is a mother of two, Josina Machel born 1976 and Malengane Machel born in 1978.

Machel speaks French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English, as well as her native Shangaan language.

See Also: Elsie Kanza – Biography Of A Powerful African Female Leader

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Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days

Board Membership

Besides being an advocate for women’s and child’s rights, Graça has led in several other capacities. For instance, she was the Chancellor of the University of Cape Town from 1999 – 2019.

Also, she has led in other profit and non-profit organisations, some of which include;

  • Member of the board, United Nations Foundation, (1998 – 2007)
  • Member of the High-Level Taskforce, 2008 – 2009
  • Commonwealth of Nations’ Eminent Persons Group, 2009
  • Member of High-level UN Panel on post-2015 development agenda 2012 – 2013
  • President of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2012
  • Chancellor of the African Leadership University in 2016.
  • Member of the Board, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
  • Chairwoman Board of Trustees, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital
  • Member of the Board of Directors, Synergos
  • Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Village Reach
  • Chairman of National Organisation of Children of Mozambique
  • President of National Commission of UNESCO
  • Member, Africa Progress Panel (APP)
  • Chairperson, Board of Trustees, African Child Policy Forum (ACPF).
  • Chairwoman, Board of Trustees, ACCORD
  • Chair Eminent Advisory Board, Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA)
  • Chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), UN
  • High-level Advisory Group, UN Every Woman Every Child, 2016

Similarly, Machel is the Founder and President, Foundation for Community Development (FDC) since 1994. Also, she co-founded the African Women Educationalists (FAWE) in 1992.

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Graça Machel Trust

The Graça Machel Trust is one of the world’s leading advocates for women, children, and communities affected by conflict and injustice. It was established in 2010 as a Pan-African advocacy organisation. It focuses on child health and nutrition, education, women’s economic and financial empowerment, leadership and good governance.

Basically, the Graça Machel Trust acts as a catalyst for children and women advocacy. It works with global, regional and local partners to advocate for the protection of children’s rights and dignity. Also, it amplifies the voices of those who otherwise might not be heard in certain spaces.

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The Elders

Graça Machel is one of the founding members of The Elders, an organisation put together by her late husband, Nelson Mandela in 2007. It is an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights.

It is made up of public figures who are also elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, such as; Mary Robinson, Ban Ki-Moon, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Desmond Tutu, Ricardo Lagos, Jimmy Carter, Juan Manuel Santos and other high-profile people in the world. These people use their years of collective experience to proffer solution to world issues.

The mission is to work both publicly and through private diplomacy, to engage with global leaders and civil society at all levels to resolve conflict and address its root causes. Also, to challenge injustice and to promote ethical leadership and good governance.

Also, under The Elders, Machel played a big role in creating the Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. The aim is to enable small groups from around the world to address the common issue of early marriages. In 2018, she was appointed the Deputy Chair.

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Graça Machel

Awards and Recognition

In 1997, Graça was honored as the Dame Commander of the Order of British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for her contribution to human rights protection. Also, in recognition of her lifelong efforts to promote human rights, education, and development, she has received several other awards. Some of it includes;

  • Laureate of Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, 1992
  • Nansen Medal of the United Nations, 1995
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, 1997
  • Global Citizen Award of the New England Circle, 1997
  • InterAction’s Humanitarian Award, 1997
  • Inter Press Service’s International Achievement Award, 1998
  • North-South Prize of the Council of Europe, 1998
  • Princess of Asturias Award (International Cooperation), 1998
  • Africare Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, 1999
  • World’s Children’s Prize, 2005
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, University of Massachusetts, 2006
  • Doctorate Honoris Causa, University of Barcelona, 2008
  • Doctorate Honoris Causa, University of Evora, 2008
  • Decade Child Rights Hero, 2009
  • Doctor in Laws (LLD) Honoris Causa, Trinity College, Dublin, 2015
  • Honorary Fellow of the British Academy (HonFBA), 2017
  • One of the Most Powerful Women in Africa, Forbes Africa, 2020

See Also: Africa’s Richest 2020 – Dangote, Adenuga, Rabiu And Alakija Makes List

Graça Machel Quotes

“Let us give a face and a voice to that girl child who has been ignored. When at last she is front and centre of our development efforts, it is she who will change the world.”

“Our lives will only have a meaning if each one of us can confidently say that I was able to bring five, ten, fifteen and twenty women along with me. What I am saying is, do not climb alone!”

“Preventing the conflicts of tomorrow means changing the mind-set of youth today.”

“We should be respectful but we must also have the courage to stop harmful practices that impoverish girls, women and their communities.”

“In a disparate world, children are a unifying force capable of bringing us all together in support of a common ethic.”

“The impact of armed conflict on children is everyone’s responsibility. And it must be everyone’s concern.”

“When you have powerful voices with moral authority, if they put issues in the right place at the right time, then the world will listen – and do something about it.”

“It is the meaning of what my life has been since a youth – to try to fight for the dignity and the freedom of my own people.”

See Also: Linda Ikeji – Biography And Business Life Of Linda Ikeji, A Celebrity Blogger

Lessons From The Life Of Graça Machel

See Obstacles As Stepping Stones

Generally, people refer to Graça as a fierce advocate without realising the challenges she fought to achieve her dream. She struggled for the right education, met barriers because of her gender and conflicts on religion and nationality. Through her struggles, she learned early the importance of challenging the status quo.

Also, she witnessed the havoc constant conflict created on African children. Instead of being devastated, the obstacles fueled her determination to protect the rights of young victims of war.

With this, Machel stood up to the task and took on the responsibility of assisting children to achieve the kind of future they need.

See Also: 100 Profitable Business Ideas For Aspiring Entrepreneurs And Investors

Be Known For Something

Machel is an international advocate known for women and children’s rights advocacy. She believes when you have a powerful voice with moral authority, and put issues out in the right place at the right time, then the world will listen – and do something about it.

Also, she believes it’s not just about doing good; it’s about engaging in a cause that transforms attitudes and behaviours. As a result, she puts her courage in whatever she strongly believes in, which has been her icing on the cake.

As a business, let your brand be known for something, that’s how you beat the competition. Also, one of the qualities of an entrepreneur is being able to see challenges as a stepping stone. Challenges should not cripple you. It’s always time to learn, re-learn and un-learn.

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