Top 10 Nelson Mandela Quotes That Inspire Us

Born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela dreamed of fighting for justice. He went on to study law, establish South Africa’s first black law firm, serve 27 years in prison, push along the end of Apartheid, and most famously, was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994. Incredible is an understatement when it comes to describing Mandela’s life & legacy.

Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in 2009 in an effort to take actions and inspire change around the world. In honor of its 10th anniversary, here are 10 ways Mandela’s passion, courage, and resilience inspires our Girls’ Voices curriculum.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Despite growing up in a tiny village and losing his father at 9, Mandela was the first member of his family to attend school. He went on to study law at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he was the only black African student. Today, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is focused on mobilizing people and governments to improve education and literacy globally.

The Girls Voices’ program strives to help these efforts along by making school more accessible by providing scholarship funding for girls to tackle all the costs associated with schools like tuition, uniforms, textbooks, and transportation.

Fools multiply when wise men are silent.

After his arrest, Mandela’s life was on the line. During his trial, he delivered a strong and passionate speech which was later published as I Am Prepared to Die. The speech received international acclaim and Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. Not only did his voice save his life, but the lives of many as he spoke up against Apartheid and its violent legacy.

For many Girls’ Voices participants, these workshops are the only place they can freely express themselves. The program’s storytelling component encourages these girls to speak up and use their voice to change their communities and beyond, just like Nelson Mandela.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

Winner of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, Mandela believed in equality amongst all humans. As an activist leader and later president, Mandela fought for the right to exist in a world where one white man’s voice was equal to a black man’s.

The Girls’ Voices curriculum reminds its participants that regardless of the color of their skin or their gender, they have a voice and the right to be heard.

One of the most difficult things is not to change society — but to change yourself.

Nelson Mandela knew that to change the world, he had to change himself. He continued to learn long after his schooling was over, he took responsibility for his mistakes and set an example for leaders around the globe.

Through their videos, Girls’ Voices participants learn that though they may be only one person, change in their community starts with them. The confidence the program helps bloom is crucial for girls to start taking charge!

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Mandela faced death threats, 27 years in prison, and turmoil from his own country, but not once did he give up. Mandela fought to the end.

Many Girls’ Voices participants come into the program afraid to speak their mind, afraid of failure, and afraid of their own power. In fact, many of these girls come from war-torn countries or broken families. By finding their voices, they come out stronger, braver, and with more conquests than fear.

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

During his presidency, Mandela prioritized national reconciliation. A key moment for that came when South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Many black South Africans despised the national rugby team, but Mandela encouraged them to support the team. He knew that a united South Africa was the way to success.

Girls’ Voices believes in unity and strength in numbers. Participants often team up or help each other on their projects as a sign of solidarity and genuine friendship.

Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.

Mandela was an optimist through and through and his legacy reminds us how light can be found in even the darkest times.

Though many of our participants have faced hardships we can’t even imagine, they are full of hope and it’s our job to give them the tools necessary to keep that hope alive.

You can start changing our world for the better daily, no matter how small the action.

Mandela believed in the power of one individual. He believed that every person has the power to make a difference and it all starts with an action forward.

A key component of our curriculum is teaching girls everywhere that they have the power to make a change in their lives and the world. These girls are changemakers and we aim to instill that way of thinking into everything we do.

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

From dropping out of school multiple times to landing in prison for a large portion of his life, Mandela knew that the important piece was to try and try again. Without this resilience, South Africa as we know it may not have come to exist.

Learning new skills, working with new tools, and telling your own story can be difficult. Many of us are quick to give up, but the Girls’ Voices curriculum focuses on learning from “failure,” rewarding success, and reminding the participants that there is victory in trying.

“A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”

Though it’s been over 5 years since his passing, Mandela’s legacy of optimistic tenacity lives on as we hope all Girls’ Voices participants’ will.