#HumanRightsDay: Education as a right and honouring Nelson Mandela

December 10th, was Human Rights Day, a chance for people across the globe to reflect on their rights, the rights of others – and crucially, whether those rights are being delivered.

This year, those reflections were of course particularly poignant as tens of thousands of South Africans – joined by millions of viewers across the world – made their way to the FNB stadium in Soweto to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest champions of human rights of our times.

As world leader after world leader acknowledged, Mandela was a man whose legacy was to honour the right of every human being regardless of who they were and where they were from. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it,

“Mandela was…one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example. He sacrificed so much … for freedom and equality, for democracy and justice.”


The conversation about rights carried into the Twittersphere when Girl Rising hosted a Twitter Chat about girls’ education with thought leaders that included the Global Education First Initative (GEFI), UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), Ashoka Changemakers, Girl UP, World Vision, and A World at School.

Hundreds participated from around the world to answer questions about how we can work to improve the fate of girls on their path towards an getting an education.  

Read the insightful question and answer tweets below:

One of our favourite answers came from @GirlUp:

It reminds us of of Nelson Mandela’s quote that: 

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

A World at School and GEFI then hosted a Google+ Hangout on Continuing Mandela’s Vision: Education as a Human Right that featured Chenor Bah of Sierra Leone and Hayley McQuire of Australia from the Youth Advocacy Group and Gcobani Jombile, a youth leader in South Africa.

During the discussion, Mr. Bah emphasized how: 

“Mandela represents… [how] young people in today’s world, we’re called to be global citizens…[Mandela] had a sense of responsibility to people.”

The day's activities carried the weight of Mandela's mission for equal access to education for every child and that providing opportunity is not just the responsibility of one group or organisation. Education is a universal human right, and regardless of one’s gender, origin, or affiliation, it needs to continue to be the driving force behind fulfilling our responsibility to one another as students of Mandela.

Watch the entire Hangout here: