Celebrated on July 18 each year, Nelson Mandela International Day – or Mandela Day – was officially declared by the United Nations in 2009 and occurs on the former South African President’s birthday. Rather than being a public holiday, the day celebrates Mandela’s life, values, struggles and dedication towards achieving social justice.
The Day also represents a call to action. People from all cultures and backgrounds – not just in South Africa, but all around the world – are encouraged to get involved in their communities, either as individuals or as members of groups, to take action against poverty. This year in South Africa there is a strong focus on starting initiatives around delivering food parcels, making masks and personal protective gear to help combat COVID-19, teaching online as well as raising money to support these efforts.
When the Day was first celebrated, organisers of community activities, campaigns and events asked people to volunteer 67 minutes of their time – one minute for each of the 67 years that Mandela spent fighting for social justice throughout his life – but the Day has evolved considerably, expanded globally and many more people are now involved in a wide array of campaigns and initiatives.
For me, being a dual Australian and South African citizen and having lived, worked and studied in both countries, I find the Day itself provides a good opportunity to pause and reflect. It also affords me the opportunity to consider the changes that I wish to see in my community, broader society and internationally and how I may wish to contribute to these.
As an individual, I can reflect on my personal interests, the voluntary work that I do and how I might be able to help make a small but positive impact. As an employee at ARTD, I can reflect on recent projects, the role I’ve played on them and how those projects and policies might impact those around me. I can also consider what Mandela Day might mean to my colleagues, the work they do and why teamwork and collaboration are so important within the company. As a member of a global society, I can reflect on my upbringing and the education opportunities I’ve been afforded and consider the vast levels of inequality that surround me.
Further reflecting on Mandela’s life – he would have turned 102 this year – I also want to learn more about him as a person and his life. I feel that when working towards a more equitable and just world it’s important to know about people who have helped inspire change, past events as well as different perspectives and approaches.
Ultimately, I feel proud to work for an organisation that is actively trying to make a positive difference to the communities we engage and work with across different policy sectors. Building on the spirit of Mandela Day and Mandela’s promotion of reconciliation and coming together, I believe that overcoming many of today’s socioeconomic challenges will require collaborative approaches, diverse teams and innovative ‘out of the box’ approaches, and Mandela Day can help promote and inspire this in some small way.
I look forward to contributing to Mandela Day and encourage others to do the same. Individually and collectively we have the potential to help overcome challenges and make positive contributions to our communities and the people around us. For, as Nelson Mandela himself famously said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
If you’d like to share your own #MandelaDay2020 story with us or explore how we might collaborate please email firstname.lastname@example.org.