South Africa is going through the birth pains of a new democracy, but is likely to emerge stronger if it builds on its strengths.
That’s the view of Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed who will deliver the 2017 annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at Cape Town’s International Convention Centre on Saturday.
Mohammed indicated the she will focus on the opportunity of what the new 2030 development framework provides and offer solutions that address the theme of 2017 lecture, Centering Gender and reducing inequality through inclusion.
Amina J. Mohammed the most powerful woman at the UN, appointed the organisation’s number two after a process of 2016 that for the first time sought, but failed, to elect a woman as Secretary General.
“I am not one of those people that met this great man (Nelson Mandela), but we stand on his shoulders and we celebrate him and we try to be like him when we grow up. So, it’s setting the scene; what he stood for.”
The lecture coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with one in five women older than 18 having experienced physical violence in South Africa.
The Mandela lecture is viewed by many as an opportunity to take the temperature of the country’s democracy.
“I think it’s going through its birth pains. I think this is a nation that is birthing through a democracy, a constitution that is quite remarkable and I think it will have a path that will have many potholes, but they come out of them stronger and I think that’s what we have to build on.”
Mohammed was born in Gombe State, Nigeria, 56 years ago – the eldest of five daughters, a wife and the mother of six, a grandmother and a former Environment Minister in her country; but describes herself in more humble terms.
“I am a development worker, all the rest are titles. It’s been my story. My pathway has never been one that I have said that this is the career path I want. It’s been one where I’ve been presented with challenges and I’ve worked through them. But I think most important, I’ve been a woman of colour and I’ve been a Muslim and in all varying circumstances it’s been tough, but with everything that is tough is an opportunity and we’ve managed to overcome those.”
The DSG reveals that she was in complete shock when she was invited to deliver the lecture.
“I thought they were just asking a number of people and so when it actually came out. I was shocked because I have to say this is not something I thought I had grown up to do just yet.”
Mohammed will be the 15th person to deliver the Mandela lecture after it’s inauguration by former United States President Bill Clinton in 2003.