Where are we now?

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”Nelson Mandela, South African activist

It’s been nearly three years since the passing of South African activist Nelson Mandela (often remembered by his traditional Xhosa clan name ‘Madiba’) but his legacy lives on. Despite the challenges he faced in his life, he was a fierce advocate for the rights of those whose voices are often left unheard. In honour of Nelson Mandela Day, we’ve taken a look at how far we’ve come on issues of his time that continue to be of utmost importance today.

On Poverty

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.

This quote was taken from a speech Mandela made to over 22,000 people in Trafalgar Square in 2005. It was part of the biggest ever anti-poverty movement titled “Make Poverty History”. Now, more than ten years later, we must examine the current state of this worldwide epidemic. Have we eradicated poverty yet, as was the first goal of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?

On Education

Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.

classroom - girl raises hand

The second goal of the MDGs was for children everywhere to finish a full course of primary schooling. In 2000, when the MDGs were launched, 83% of children in developing regions were enrolled in primary school. As of 2015, enrolment in primary education in developing regions has reached 91%!

That is an amazing eight per cent increase in only 15 years. 91% isn’t just a number – it represents hope for many children worldwide who dream of escaping poverty and obtaining food security. Of course, there is more to be done. Goal 4 of the SDGs aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. Inclusivity is crucial to understanding education barrier

On Women and Children

As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance..

When looking at the results of the third MDG goal – to promote gender equality and empower women – it’s tough to see that while developing countries have overall achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, women still face big gaps in terms of poverty, the labour market and wages. When a woman is affected by poverty, the struggles that she faces are passed down to her children.

mother and daughter

One solution to this challenge is paying closer attention to the gender gap in the worldwide literacy rate. At present, almost 17% of the world’s adult population is illiterate, and almost two thirds of them are women. If a woman can read and write, her child is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five and is twice as likely to be sent to school helping to break the cycle of poverty. Mandela taught us that education is empowerment, and by supporting the dreams of young girls (by giving them access to education), their pathway to success as grown women becomes much clearer.

Nelson Mandela meant a lot to people all over the world, and even after his passing, we continue to be inspired by his words on global challenges. Thank you, Madiba, for speaking up for those who needed you and inspiring us to do the same.

Happy Nelson Mandela Day from all of us at CFTC!

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