Mandela Day: taking action against poverty

Mandela Day has made a strategic shift towards better ensuring that its focus on making every day a Mandela Day has increased sustainability, reach and impact. (Image: Foter)

Mandela Day has made a strategic shift towards better ensuring that its focus on making every day a Mandela Day has increased sustainability, reach and impact.

Announcing the switch on 11 April 2017, the Foundation’s Director of Communication and Outreach, Luzuko Koti, said the focus for the immediate future would be on taking action against poverty.

Mandela Day is an international campaign centred around the United Nations’ 2009 declaration of Nelson Mandela’s 18 July birthday as Nelson Mandela International Day, which urges everyone, everywhere to take concrete steps towards improving life for others. The campaign is now observed in 149 countries.

“More than 63% of South African children live in poverty; one in five – 12-million – South Africans live in extreme poverty,” Koti said, quoting a study released last year. The study, by NGO Ilifa Labantwana, the University of Cape Town’s Children’s Institute, and the Presidency’s Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, showed that poverty affects these children’s physical, cognitive and emotional development.

Speaking to corporate and non-governmental organisations at the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, Koti appealed to them to join hands with the Foundation, implementing actions to help eradicate poverty in South Africa and across the world. The Foundation would monitor the impact made.

“Our intention is to eradicate poverty from the face of the Earth. We have to be that bold,” Koti said.

Mandela Day initially urged individuals to spend 67 minutes on 18 July on community service. Later that shifted to a call to “make every day a Mandela Day”, with actions encouraged along four “pillars” – education and literacy, food security, shelter, and volunteering.

Mandela Day Manager Yase Godlo said workshops with collaborators revealed the four pillars caused confusion, and it was thought that one theme would lead to better-focused work. South Africa faces “triple threats” – poverty, unemployment and inequality – and it was decided to tackle the first.

The 11 April event was an introduction to sponsors of the switch in direction – there will be a global public launch on 10 May, and Mandela Day will be showcased at the Rand Show, running from 14 to 23 April.

“This new direction is very impressive,” said Lesley Malatse, an administrator for the Housing Africa Initiative, a Tembisa-based organisation aimed at ensuring a safe, just community. “When we heard the new theme was Action Against Poverty, we were so happy, because that’s what we also fight, in Tembisa.”

“This new direction is more likely to work for all of us,” said Agnes Ntombela, operations manager for the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry.

Ntombela was keen to get back to her office and have a proper look at the new Mandela Day website because her organisation is meeting in June to make decisions on its Mandela Day book donation project. “I want to see how we can use the toolkit,” she said.

A screenshot of the new Mandela Day website home page. 

Godlo highlighted the new toolkit, which includes posters, video and hashtags for use on social media, and tools such as a quiz, a learners’ guide and a colouring-in book, when he launched the new website on 11 April.

While there are strict rules on how the posters, video clips and other assets can be used, there are opportunities to add an entity’s own logo to these resources. “Don’t drive a Mandela Day campaign and leave out Mandela Day,” he said.

Koti said the bonus with the resources provided is that all the information contained in them, including a biography of Mandela and a timeline of his life, has been verified by the Foundation.

Katherine Robertson, commercial manager for For Good, a non-governmental organisation aimed at using the internet to connect people to causes, said she is keen to see how using the tools to motivate collective action would work in practice.

“There is always a greater impact if we collaborate,” she said. “South Africa is small enough that we can change things.”