UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

"For us all, Madiba means freedom" - UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

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Date: 05 December 2013

Press Statement, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

I join my voice to the countless voices all around the world paying tribute to Nelson Mandela.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets with Nelson Mandela.   Photo: Noah Selowe
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets with Nelson Mandela. Photo: Noah Selowe

I pay tribute to his sacrifice and his steadfast belief in human rights and human dignity for everybody. His strong commitment to a society free of all kinds of hate and discrimination included ending discrimination against women.

Nelson Mandela was like a father to me and to many of us. He was a leader I will always look up to. He leaves us his inspiration to follow and his lesson that despite hardship and struggle, we must retain hope and believe that freedom and justice are possible.

In 1995 on International Women’s Day, as women worldwide were preparing for the Fourth World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing, Nelson Mandela spoke out strongly for women’s rights and full participation.

He spoke of the “struggles of the women over the decades and a rejuvenation of our commitment to strive for a society free of all kinds of discrimination, more especially discrimination against women.”

This was at a time when the constitution writing process was well underway in a new democratic South Africa. He said, “As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path of fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women.” And he called on the whole of society to make this a prime responsibility.

Madiba showed us that none of us are free until all of us are free. In doing so he promoted the goals and the principles of the United Nations, and of UN Women, the organization that I have the honour to lead today.

I pay tribute to his moral fortitude and to his humility. With these qualities, Nelson Mandela inspired countless people around the world. 

For us all, Madiba means freedom.

I pledge to carry his trust forward. UN Women will lead with a vision of hope and deep commitment to end violence and discrimination against women, with a vision of equality for all.

Our sorrow runs deep with his passing. UN Women extends deep sympathy and condolences to his wife Graça Machel, and his family.