JIS News

Jamaicans are being encouraged to join in the global call for humanitarian action by spending 67 minutes of their time serving others, specifically children, come Thursday, July 18 – Nelson Mandela International Day.

The former President of South Africa gave 67 years of his life to fighting for the rights of humanity, and the day is dedicated to his life and work and that of his charitable organizations, and to ensure that his legacy continues.

Being celebrated under the theme: ‘Take Action, Inspire Change, and make every day a Mandela Day’, the event is also a global call to action for people to recognise their ability to have a positive effect on others around them, whether through supporting a charity or serving their local community.

South Africa’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Mathu Joyini, tells JIS News that Nelson Mandela International Day, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2009 and formally launched in 2011, is celebrated across the world on the birthday of the freedom fighter.

“So on that day, people across the globe are asked to do something good for the other…People are being asked to spend only 67 minutes of their time on the 18th of July to find something that they can do which is of benefit or is of service to the other. All of us can surely find 67 minutes to do something good for the other,” she asserts.

[Special Page: Nelson Mandela International Day]

The High Commissioner further notes that essentially, the day is about celebrating Mr. Mandela’s birthday in a way that speaks to the values he upholds. These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation and respect.

“Other than principles of social justice…he is also about caring for children and caring for others, and society really living up to, and doing what they are supposed to do for their citizens. So, it’s really celebrating those values and doing something that speaks to those values,” she explains.

While persons are free to lend a hand to whomever they please, it is being suggested that in Jamaica, the focus be placed on the nation’s children, in keeping with Mr. Mandela’s passion for the welfare of children.

According to Mr. Mandela in a 1997 quote; “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”

The High Commissioner tells JIS News that, “nothing will please him (Mr. Mandela) more than those 67 minutes being spent in service of the children in Jamaica and that’s how we started it last year. So, we ask individuals, organizations, to just do something for the children for 67 minutes.”

Ms. Joyini points out that Mr. Mandela usually celebrates his birthday with children. “So, he’ll (normally) be in his homestead in Qunu and they’ll bus children from all over the area to come and celebrate his birthday with him,” she notes.

As a member State of the United Nations, Jamaica already supports the day, but it was formally launched in the country last year, “so that all Jamaicans can celebrate the day,” the High Commissioner states.

Ms. Joyini shares that when the day was launched last year, she was overwhelmed by the reception of the idea itself, “and it became very clear to me fairly quickly that it had to do with the man himself.”

She adds that she was particularly pleased with the level of support from corporate Jamaica, noting that close to 20 corporations came forward to participate in various activities for children.

The High Commissioner expresses her gratitude to Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who was the patron of the first Nelson Mandela Day in Jamaica.

“She formally launched it in Jamaica, which was quite special, and this year we are partnering with Minister (of Youth and Culture), Hon. Lisa Hanna, specifically because we are focusing on rural children and children that are in homes,” she explains.

Mr. Mandela, whose life has been an inspiration for South Africans and many across the world, was born on July 18, 1918, in a small village in the Transkei province of Eastern South Africa. Often described as “the father of the nation,” he is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name of Madiba or as Tata, meaning Father.

Seen as a revolutionary, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is known worldwide for his fight against a system of racial oppression in which the majority of South Africans were disenfranchised. This was referred to as apartheid, which existed in South Africa from as early as 1910.

[Special Page: Nelson Mandela]

Mr. Mandela was jailed in 1964 for leading the liberation movement against apartheid and for his stance on human rights to live in freedom. He served 26 years in prison.

Following an international campaign lobbying for his release, and after successful negotiations with the white government, led at the time by Frederik Willem de Klerk, Mr. Mandela was released from prison in 1990.

His release would mark a major turning point in South Africa’s history. This development fed political debates in the country and contributed to South Africa’s transition towards a multi-racial democracy.

After his release, Mr. Mandela continued addressing racial issues in his country and supported reconciliation initiatives. His efforts resulted in him being elected as South Africa’s President in 1994, serving for a single term until 1999.

He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.

Contact: Alecia Smith-Edwards