Nelson Mandela may not be alive today, but the values he believed in are being valiantly fought for every day by outstanding citizens like the 2022 Global Citizen Prize winner for South Africa, Khanyisile Motsa

Nelson Mandela fought for justice and peace in his lifetime, and spent 67 years of his life in service to others. On his birthday, July 18, the world celebrates Mandela Day; a day dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable and uplifting communities in need. 

In honour of the day, people across South Africa are encouraged to spend at least 67 minutes — one minute for every year Mandela spent in service to others — doing good and serving those in need.

Much like the former president of South Africa, Motsa (or Mam’Khanyi as she’s affectionately known) has spent decades in service to her community. In 2002, she founded Home of Hope for Girls, which serves as a home for young women and girls who are survivors of child trafficking, abuse, and gender-based violence. Through the organisation she sees to it that every girl has access to her basic human rights, including the one she prioritises above all: a loving home.

Mam’Khanyi makes room in her heart for anyone who needs it, and refers to all the girls under her roof as her children. As a matter of fact, her heart is big enough to house the many people that walk through her doors. Ahead of Mandela Day, the Global Citizen team had lunch with Mam’Khanyi and her girls and throughout the day she referred to our team as her children — as you can imagine, it is one of our greatest honours. 

So who better to speak to about the significance of Mandela Day than a woman who has spent two decades of her life standing up for the rights of South Africa’s women and girls? We borrowed a few minutes of Mam’Khanyi’s time to find out what Mandela Day and Nelson Mandela's legacy mean to her. 

What is your definition of Mandela Day? 

Mandela Day is a day of remembrance, it’s a day that reminds us of Mandela. It reminds us of his good heart and his wish for us to look at each other and see our neighbours in every person.

There is this ask, this 67 minutes of your time... In fact, if I can re-interpret Mandela Day, I think that we should not be asking for 67 minutes, but for a lifetime. We need a lifetime of your minutes, because there is nothing you can do in one day, especially when it comes to problems that South Africa is facing. 

Even if, let’s say, you've talked to someone that you want to help on the day; getting to know that person and what they really need? One day is not enough for that. You’ll maybe only remember that person's face after one day, but you’ll never know who the person truly is. We need to know each other properly to make it count, and Mandela Day is just the start.

What does Mandela’s legacy mean to you? 

To me, the memory of Mandela, the legacy of Mandela, it is like a map that shows you that even when things are bad, you can do it — because he did it. 

His legacy is there to remind us that he was a human being like us, we saw him moving and living just like us. He had problems like any other person, but he continued to be excited about helping other people. He continued to be so happy to see another person prosper. That is something that we'll never forget. 

Who can forget his dance? Who can forget his smile? Those things showed you that this guy was happy to be there for us. We feel sorry for you if you say you're at a loss without him, because we remember him as the man who became our father, even though some of us don't even know our fathers — and a father’s legacy, him wanting the best for all of us, that is never lost. 

What advice do you have for those who have never served their community, but want to start this year? 

If you've never helped before and now you want to help, I’ll say that what you should recognise are the needs of people who are next to you. That's where you can start, because if you go outside your community, you will be broken into pieces. 

You won't know whether you're doing the right thing, or the wrong thing, and you won’t understand the problems that need you most. In order for you to help, you have to know what is really right for that particular person or community. You’ll only know that if you start next to you, start with your neighbours. 

What is one hope you have for the country, and the world this Mandela Day?

My hope is that all of us can be living Mandela Day every day. Every day there is a need for this thing we call Mandela Day. Everybody needs your help, especially in this country. If you find that there are spaces where you look and you say, “there's nothing I can do here,” you are just lying to yourself. 

There is something you can do. Something can always be done. And we can do it, if you look at all days like they are Mandela Day.

Mam’Khanyi’s Home of Hope for Girls faces several needs this Mandela Day, including the need for consistent funding to keep the lights on, and groceries to make sure that all of her children have access to daily meals as they head back to school after the winter holidays. If you’d like to assist Home of Hope for Girls, you can get in touch with them through email or phone call, find their details here.

Global Citizen Asks

Demand Equity

We Asked a Woman Who’s Served Her Community for 22 Years: What Does Mandela's Legacy Mean to You?

By Khanyi Mlaba