Graça Machel: A Role Model for Our Times

What is impact, really?

From reducing illiteracy by 72% in Mozambique to producing a ground-breaking UNICEF report that changed the way the United Nations reacts in conflict zones, Mrs. Graça Machel — one of TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People — is a phenomenal leader who generates impact with every step she takes.

This former freedom fighter and true advocate for change was a guest on the latest episode of The Pathway with Fred Swaniker. Having dedicated her life to improving the fate of women and children, she left us inspired and hopeful about the possibility of building a more just and equitable world.

Here are a few of the gems she shared:

Fight for your freedom

“We didn’t have a choice between being colonized and fighting for freedom. Being colonized means you don’t have an identity of your own. You’re always treated as someone else and being reminded every single day that you are denied your dignity as an individual and as a people. We were compelled to join the struggle because it was the only way we could attain our freedom.”

Go after your goals

“Each one of us lives and achieves what our time requires of us as long as we are prepared to do anything to achieve our goals.”

Be true to yourself

“I try to be true to myself so that people will trust me. For you to trust me, I have to be true to myself and to be true to you.”

Never stop learning

“The reason I’m still jovial and young at heart is because I haven’t lost the ability to learn. I gain a lot from engaging with young people — much more than what they gain from me — and this keeps my mind moving.”

Respect others

“I’m someone who is aware of the importance of respecting and honouring the people I work with. My word is an act of respect for them. I can’t respect myself if I don’t respect those I interact with.”

Empowered women transform societies

“Women have the unlimited ability to give and care for others. Women have also been victims of terrible atrocities and injustices… We lose as a society when we marginalise women.”

Be led by those who have suffered injustice

“Nothing is going to change if it isn’t led by those who suffer most.”

Nothing beats teamwork

“In a war, you either survive together or you die together. None of us could achieve anything if we didn’t work with others.”

Dare to reinvent the status quo

“Our hope as women is not just to have a seat at the table but to re-design the table. When this happens, power relations at all levels will change.”

Value every opportunity

“I never take any opportunity or situation where I have to address people for granted just because I have done it before. Every moment has its own characteristics and value and outcome, so you have to be prepared.”

When you are the only one, you represent the voices of many

“When you are the only woman in the room, you have to remember you are not alone. You are carrying hundreds of thousands of women. Your success is their success. In number, you are one, but in reality, there are many women sitting in that room through you.”

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