Structures fail women, says Graça Machel

2012-08-07 18:35
Graca Machel (AFP)

Graca Machel (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - International bodies in place to protect women and children during times of conflict fail in their task, humanitarian Graça Machel said on Tuesday.

"The institutions that have to protect women and children in conflict, they are obsolete," said Machel, who is president of the Foundation for Community Development of SA.

They did not care about people. "And I am angry," she said.

Machel was recalling how, during her work for the United Nations, she visited countries in conflict, where the women and children were the worst affected.

She, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, and former Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Brigalia Bam, were speaking at a Women's Month lunch in Johannesburg.

In Sierra Leone, her eyes met those of a mother whose child was dying in a feeding camp, said Machel.

"The child would die. She knew it. I knew it. It was one of the most powerless moments of my life."

She said the international bodies were making decisions to increase their strategic positions.

"And they use us. The smaller ones [countries]."

She said smaller countries aligned themselves with larger ones in case they needed their help later.

"[These bodies] are there to prevent conflict. How many times have they prevented conflict?"

Asked how she felt always being described as someone's wife and not a person in her own right, Machel replied: "Girls and women are seen and treated as objects or sometimes as a currency."

She jokingly said a man was never referred to as the husband of someone, unless he died.

"We, as women, have to affirm and assert our own identity... be a full human being."

Unpopular decisions

Bam was asked about the country's readiness for a female president.

"We have been ready even before Madiba took over," she answered.

She said women in positions of power had to be willing to make unpopular decisions.

"You will not always say popular things and that is a price you must be willing to pay."

Robinson recalled how growing up with four brothers sparked her early interest in human rights.

She explained that when she was fresh out of Harvard University she tried to pass a bill on family planning in Dublin, and how she was criticised, but that it had taught her a life's lesson.

"Be prepared. Pay the price."

She said she had played to her strengths as a woman when she was president.

"Being a woman was an advantage, not a handicap."

Machel and Robinson congratulated Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on her election as African Union Commission chairperson.

Machel said Dlamini-Zuma was the right person for the job.

"She is a very principled woman. She is a very courageous woman."

Robinson said it was great to be in South Africa during Women's Month and to share it with such extraordinary women.


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

5 crucial questions to ask before you take that job 2014-10-30 08:00

You choose your employer just as much as they choose you. Here are 5 of the most important things you should find out about a company before you sign up.


10 facts about swimming you didn't know

This will make you want to jump right into the pool.


Where were you when you last felt alive?

Snors with a cause - creating awareness of male health
Inspiring: Rock climbing with just one leg
Watch! Skateboarders racing cyclists
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

TV Series – 2 for R299

Loads of hot titles to choose from. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Life can feel quite full on and overwhelming at the moment as the pressure of expectations and obligations start to pile up. more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.