Humanitarian and former First Lady Graça Machel says the world needs to dismantle and change social inequalities; particularly regarding the rights of women across the globe.

Machel was speaking during the virtual Nelson Mandela Lecture. The lecture was delivered by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who focused on global inequality and what is needed to reverse the problem.

Guterres delivered the lecture under the under the theme; Tackling the Inequality Pandemic: A New Social Contract for a New Era.

Machel also addressed the issue of inequality, saying it cannot be tackled without addressing women’s leadership, rights and well-being.

“Without conscious efforts to centre women and girls at the core of the COVID-19 response and reconstruction, we risk the perpetuation of unhealthy power imbalances. We have lived with for far too long and miss a critical window of opportunity to redesign human relationships into ones of mutual respect and equity.”

Long way to go in achieving Mandela’s vision

Guterres says Mandela dedicated his life to fighting injustice and inequality and the coronavirus has exposed how far the world still has to go to achieve Madiba’s vision.

He says COVID-19 has acted like an x-ray machine, exposing the fractures of racism, poverty and inequality across the globe. He’s lamented the continuing legacy of colonialism and the continued deprivation that women and girl children suffer in many countries.

Guterres says the virus has ravaged societies and economies worldwide and it has created the opportunity for setting the world on a more fair and sustainable path.

He has used the Nelson Mandela Lecture to call for new Social Contract to create equal opportunities for all. Guterres says although the COVID-19 pandemic is a human tragedy, it has created a generational opportunity.

“An opportunity to build back a more equal and sustainable world. The response to the pandemic, and to the widespread discontent that preceded it, must be based on a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal that creates equal opportunities for all and respects the rights and freedoms of all. This is the only way that we will meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda agreements that address precisely the failures that are being exposed and exploited by the pandemic.”

In the video below, Guterres delivers the Nelson Mandela Lecture:

President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke shortly before the Nelson Mandela Lecture. The President said COVID-19 had exposed major problems in the world and it could no longer be business as usual.

“Our acts of care and solidarity should also deepen our collaboration to address human kind’s most pressing challenges; better education, eliminating poverty and under development, food security, climate change and gender-based violence. We have it within us to rise above the devastation brought about by this pandemic.”

In the video below, Ramaphosa addresses the media prior to the Mandela lecture: