“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” – Nelson Mandela

Much has been spoken and written about the great, yet humble, man that was Nelson Mandela. And, indeed, he had much to say too, that is inspiring, as his many quotations bear witness. He truly inspired myriads of people in the most positive ways imaginable and continues to do so. But he not only spoke about getting things done, he got them done! And many, many people have followed suit through all kinds of actions.

How did Nelson Mandela Day come about? In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to declare 18 July International Nelson Mandela Day. The day would be in recognition of Madiba’s birthday. It also recognises his “contribution to the culture of peace and freedom” throughout the world. The inspiration for this is said to be his statement at his 90th birthday celebrations in Hyde Park: 

“It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.” 

And thus, 67 minutes for Nelson Mandela Day was born in 2010. It is an international call for people to recognise and honour Madiba’s legacy of action for the most humane of reasons. And to carry it forward. Nelson Mandela spent 67 years in service to South Africa and to the world. People are thus asked to start their contribution to humankind by dedicating just 67 minutes in service to others on this day. As Ferial Haffajee has put it: 

“He does not want a legacy cast in copper, concrete or marble, no monuments or highways, but a living legacy of volunteerism and service.”

The Mandela Day organisation has stated the “essence of Mandela Day – take action, inspire change, and make every day a Mandela Day”. We can add here the words of Mandela himself: 

“Where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done.”

Many of our fellow citizens are experiencing various kinds of oppression, economic, social, abuse, to name a few. This is even more visible in this time of pandemic and lockdown. But we have also seen a huge groundswell of generosity and compassion and action towards lifting people’s burdens. There is hope that it will continue far beyond the end of the pandemic.

I am humbled to be part of the #ImStaying movement that has many of the same goals as the Mandela Day organisation. These are: Education & Literacy, Food & Nutrition, Shelter, Sanitation, and Active Citizenship. We have seen a massive response to people’s needs by our members since the movement started in September 2019. And it has been spreading. As Mandela has said:

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”


#Stay and shine your light.

For more ideas on how you can participate in Mandela Day, visit:

  • Website: www.mandeladay.com
  • UN website: www.un.org/mandeladay

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