Former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique, advocate for women’s and children’s rights
Graça Machel is a renowned international advocate for women's and children's rights, and has been a social and political activist for decades. She is President of the Foundation for Community Development (FDC), a not-for-profit Mozambican organisation she founded in 1994. The FDC makes grants to civil society organisations to strengthen communities, facilitate social and economic justice, and assist in the reconstruction and development of post-war Mozambique.
Machel was a delegate to the 1998 UNICEF conference in Zimbabwe, is President of Mozambique’s National Commission of UNESCO, and served on the international steering committee of the 1990 World Conference on Education for All.
In 1994, the UN Secretary-General appointed Machel as an independent expert to carry out an assessment of the impact of armed conflict on children.
Machel was the recipient of InterAction’s humanitarian award for 1997, and received a major award from CARE as a result of her long-standing work on behalf of children, among many other awards.
Machel has served on the boards of numerous international organisations, including the UN Foundation, the Forum of African Women Educationalists, the African Leadership Forum, and the International Crisis Group. Among many other commitments, she is Chair of the Fund Board for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, and Peer of the African Peer Review Mechanism.
As Minister of Education and Culture in Mozambique (1975-1989) she oversaw an increase in primary school enrolment from 40 per cent of children in 1975 to over 90 per cent of boys and 75 per cent of girls by 1989.
Machel is the widow of the first president of Mozambique. She is married to the former president of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and divides her time between activities in Mozambique and South Africa.