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Grace Machel

Grace Machel




A Champion for Women's and Children's Rights

Graça Machel, born on October 17, 1945, is a prominent Mozambican politician and humanitarian known for her unwavering advocacy for the rights of women and children. Widely recognized as the widow of two influential leaders, former President of Mozambique Samora Machel and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, Machel has left an indelible mark on the global stage through her dedicated efforts in humanitarian work.

Born as Graça Simbine in rural Incadine, Mozambique, Machel faced adversity from a young age, being born just 17 days after her father's death. Despite this, she pursued her education vigorously, attending Methodist mission schools before earning a scholarship to the University of Lisbon in Portugal. There, she studied German and became involved in independence issues, laying the groundwork for her future activism.

Machel's journey into politics began when she joined the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) upon her return to Mozambique in 1973. Her commitment to the cause led to her appointment as Mozambique's first Minister of Education and Culture following the country's independence in 1975. Under her leadership, the nation witnessed a significant increase in school enrollment, particularly among females, reflecting her dedication to education and empowerment.

Beyond her political endeavors, Machel has been a tireless advocate for humanitarian causes. She has received numerous accolades for her efforts, including the prestigious Nansen Medal from the United Nations and the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II. Machel's commitment to humanitarian work extends to her roles as chancellor of the University of Cape Town and president of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

In addition to her notable achievements, Machel has played a pivotal role in various international organizations, including the Africa Progress Panel and The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela to address global challenges. Her involvement in initiatives such as Girls Not Brides highlights her dedication to combating child marriage and promoting gender equality.

Machel's personal life has been marked by tragedy and triumph. She was married to Samora Machel until his untimely death in a plane crash in 1986. Later, she married Nelson Mandela in 1998, cementing her legacy as the only woman in modern history to have served as First Lady of two countries.

Despite facing adversity, Machel's unwavering dedication to humanitarian causes has earned her international recognition and admiration. Her numerous honors and awards underscore her significant contributions to advancing the rights and well-being of women, children, and marginalized communities worldwide. As a beacon of hope and resilience, Graça Machel continues to inspire future generations to strive for a more equitable and compassionate world.


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