One-on-One with Ndileka Mandela (yes, THAT Mandela)

During February 25-28, 2016, Houston hosted the We Lead International presented by the Africa IXchange Pan African Women’s Summit at the Marriott West Loop Galleria with international dignitaries and notables in attendance, including Ndileka Mandela, the granddaughter of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela and Speaker of Parliament of Mozambique, H.E. Veronica Macamo.  The Pan African Women’s Summit 2016 is held to inspire, engage, and empower women across Africa to promote development in infrastructure, health and human resources training, education and technology.

Africa IXchange, a We Lead initiative, is formed from the perspective of women to make the changes from within, to build resilient families and stronger communities, worldwide.  The goals of the Houston summit are to help build community capacities, create effective partnerships and best practices, and promote leadership skills in women.

Ndileka Mandela was a key part of the summit.  According to Mandela, “Women empowerment in Africa and women empowerment globally, is the same.  In the African context, some women believe that if you have a career, a husband, and children, and want to accord equal status to all of them, that is real empowerment.  Others believe that having a career and not needing anybody else, especially men, is women empowerment.  I don’t believe that we can be one dimensional.  For me, real empowerment in the 21st century is a struggle of identity and of choice, to be authentic to whatever choice you make.”

Mandela has her focus on education and launched the Thembelika Mandela Foundation in the name of her father, the oldest son of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela.  She attended the conference and spoke at the “Jewels Of Africa” gala on Saturday, February 27.  We had the chance to visit with her and discuss the conference.

Sonia: Hello! A pleasure to see you!  We’ve corresponded on social media up to now, what do you think of Houston?

Mandela: I like it so far.  It’s warm here.

Sonia: Is this your first visit to Houston?

Mandela: Most definitely.  I’ve been to Tennessee and other places, but never Houston.

Sonia: Wow! First visit to Houston and the Rodeo is beginning, lots of good things in Houston.

Mandela: Yes, I saw it on the news.

Sonia: You’ll be going to the Pan African Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit where you’re a keynote speaker at dinner tonight. Tell us a bit about the Foundation.

Mandela: It is a foundation that, you know, Granddad cared for children’s rights, and it is similar to the Nelson Mandela Foundation in its focus on education and better health.

When Grandad became ill in January, 2011, I took a sabbatical.  Being an ICU nurse, I decided to spend his last days by his side, and by de facto became the liaison person between the family and the medical team.  It was during that time that I discussed with him continuing his legacy.  Sadly, I had this intention in 2012, yet we were delayed in registration because Granddad fell ill at the end of 2012 and passes on in December of 2013.  Come January, 2014 we’re registered, and the Thembikile Mandela Foundation, whose idea and seed had been sown since 2012 came into existence in February, 2013.  Nelson Mandela Schools are the schools that Granddad raised funds in and all around South Africa for recent computers, science laboratories, and libraries.  We use development to look at agriculture in terms of looking at jobs to address issues of unemployment, take unemployed youth and train them in agriculture, and how to run an agricultural project, and be able to participate in the years to come.

Sonia: How can we best, in Houston or in the Unites States, help this foundation, as so many people have heard of Nelson Mandela and know who he is, how can we best help the Foundation?

Mandela: Well, there’s various ways that you can help.  Some are about funding.  The others are in terms of partnership in-kind.  When I say, “in-kind”, you know, you or a person may elect to say, “yes, I do not have the financial resources to put into the Foundation, but I know a person at a school who is getting rid of their computers, let’s see if we can refurbish these and use them for our schools.”

Sonia: Ideas or goodwill, right, that sort of help?

Mandela: Yes, ideas or goodwill.  A project that is close to my heart is called Pride Of The Rural Girl where we supply sanitary wear in rural areas where girls cannot attend school due to their menstruation because they do not have sanitary wear.  Pride Of The Rural Girl can buy a whole year’s worth of supplies for one girl student for $20.00.

Sonia:  $20.00 for one year’s supply, that’s amazing!

Mandela: Yes, for a one year’s supply.  We thought that it would be well and good for us to equip the school with state-of-the-art computers, laboratories, and books, but if a girl is not in class because of the lack of sanitary wear, what good are these things if the girl is unhygienic?  They use substances like old rags, newspapers, or toilet paper to stop their flow.

Sonia: I guess that is where you would need the most help, correct?

Mandela: Yes.

Sonia: Where do you see the future of the Foundation in the next 5 to 10 years?

Mandela: We see ourselves as catalysts.  I see it in the next 10 years as having grown from strength to strength, especially in the terms of addressing the issues of unemployment, because I believe that if the youth is unemployed, then the economy of the country is doomed.  If the children of our country are not educated, a country cannot thrive.  Granddad, rightfully so, as you know, came from the premise that health and education are the backbone of a thriving society.  I want to take his dream that much further, and realize it in a way that he did not.

Sonia: We appreciate your time today. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you further. We’ll continue to see what kind of partnerships we can make here in the United States for this legacy that you are doing so well.

Ndileka Mandela, granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, has an academic profile that began with a Diploma in general nursing, followed by a Diploma in midwifery in the eastern Cape formerly known as Transkei.  Following her education, Mandela worked in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of St. Aidan’s Hospital for six years.  During her career at St. Aidan’s Hospital, she trained and qualified as a renal ICU nurse at King Edward VII Hospital.  Later, she left nursing to work as a pharmaceutical representative with Sandoz and Scherag.  After leaving the pharmaceutical industry, she worked as a phlebotomist in a pathology laboratory.  Her interest in the medical field has gone full circle from the different sectors within the health care industry, giving her more than 15 years of experience in medicine.

Also speaking at the Africa IXchange Pan African Women’s Summit is Speaker Of Parliament Of Mozambique, H.E. Veronica Macamo, making her first visit to Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States as well as the third largest population from Africa.

Macamo is a powerful decision maker in Mozambique.  She was elected to the nation’s second highest position in 2010, and id the first Woman in Mozambique to hold the post. Houston, known as the energy capitol of the world, with over 3700 energy related businesses, is of interest to Mozambique with abundant untapped coal reserves hydroelectric capacity, and natural gas reserves.

We Lead, a community development non-profit organization, based in Houston, held the unique summit to create networking opportunities and ignite dialogue between Africa and the international community for business exchange in the areas of education, energy, healthcare, infrastructure, and technology.


Interview by: Sonia  Guimbellot

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