MEMORIAL SERVICE IN HONOUR OF MRS. WINFRED “WINNIE” NOMZAMO MADIKIZELA- MANDELA
– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Memorial Service in honour of Mrs. Winfred “Winnie” Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela”
Excellencies, Mr. Secretary-General, Madame Deputy-Secretary-General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
In every period of history, there are some people, who are different to others. And that is because they are willing to sacrifice everything, to change the world around them.
And, we owe a great debt, to people like this.
Their sacrifices benefit all of those who come after them. And, their sacrifices – in a small or a serious way – change the course of history.
I do not think any of us could deny that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is one of these people.
And that is why we are all gathered here, today, to pay tribute to her.
Now, she is gone. But her legacy remains.
And, as we remember her, I would like to make two points, on how Ms. Madikizela-Mandela helped to change the world around her.
The first relates to the political and social structures of her own country.
In the early years of her life, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela became outraged by the poverty, inequality, and racism that she encountered. So, she turned towards political activism. And, she stood up against the apartheid regime.
But, she was met with strong resistance. She was taken away from her children. She was imprisoned. She was tortured. Yet, she continued to demand an end to injustice. And she inspired many others to do the same – both within and outside the borders of South Africa.
My second point is on the contribution of Ms. Madikizela-Mandela to the changing role of women.
In the early 1900s, women started to become active in South Africa’s liberation struggle. Ms. Madikizela-Mandela built on this work. She refused to accept the limits of patriarchy. And she carved out her own space. In politics. In society. And in the history books.
This changed how women were seen. It helped to pull down barriers. It led to women’s rights being enshrined in South Africa’s new constitution. It also ensured that the reconciliation process, which followed, was shaped by women.
And, I believe there were ripple effects, on the international stage. Over the past decades, we have done much more to strengthen the role of women in peacebuilding and reconciliation processes. They are the educators, community leaders, local mediators, and peace brokers. And we now know that no efforts to build peace can work, without them. Perhaps this is not something we immediately think of, when we pay tribute to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. But her contribution cannot be overlooked.
Her voice was loud. Her resilience was inspiring. And, her sacrifices changed the course of history. Like I said, we owe her a great debt. And remembering her today is one way of repaying it.
As I conclude, I would like to express my sincere condolences.
And I would like to, again, pay tribute to the life of Ms. Madikizela-Mandela.
Her voice was loud.
Her resilience was inspiring.
And, her sacrifices changed the course of history
Like I said, we owe her a great debt. And remembering her today is one way of repaying it.