Names: Machel, Graça
Born: 17 October 1945, Gaza, Mozambique
Ms. Graça Machel is recognized for her dedication to educating the people of Mozambique, and for her leadership in organizations devoted to the children of her war-torn country. She has been a major force in increasing literacy and schooling in Mozambique and has spoken of the needs and rights of children, families and community, from platforms all over the world. She was born on the 17th of October, 1945, in Gaza.
During the war for independence from the Portuguese, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) set up schools in liberated territories and within their training camps in neighbouring Tanzania. Ms. Machel participated in the armed struggle, and was appointed Deputy Director of the Frelimo Secondary School at Bagamoyo, Tanzania, in 1974. When Frelimo formed an independent government in 1975, Ms. Machel became a member of Frelimo's Central Committee and the Minister of Education and Culture. In September 1975, she married Samora Machel, the first President of Mozambique. When President Machel was killed in a plane crash on October 19, 1986, Mrs. Machel intensified her commitment to her country's development, and on behalf of children worldwide.
As Minister for Education until 1989, Graça Machel worked to implement Frelimo's goal of universal education for all Mozambicans. In the decade from 1975-85, the number of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools rose from about 40 percent of all school-aged children to over 90 percent for males and 75 percent for females.
In response to Mozambique's support of African Liberation Movements in Rhodesia and South Africa (Ms. Machel was one of Mozambique's strongest voices in anti-apartheid advocacy), the Rhodesian government established the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) to destabilize Mozambique's economy and to terrorize its citizens. With South Africa's support, Renamo's war against Mozambique in the 1980's led to some 2.4 million displaced people, over 250,000 orphaned children, and to the destruction of the majority of the nation's schools and health clinics destroyed.
Ms. Machel has striven for peace and reconciliation in her country, and has attempted to further Mozambique's reconstruction and development efforts. As President of the Foundation of Community Development, she has facilitated greater community access to knowledge and technology and patterns of sustainable human development.
In recognition of the particular devastation of war on children, Ms. Machel became Chairperson of the National Organization of Children of Mozambique, an organization that places orphans in village homes while reinforcing the role of the family and community in the healing process. Ms. Machel worked closely with families in her efforts to rehabilitate children, and has acted to empower Mozambican women.
Ms. Machel has also participated in international fora, as a delegate to the 1988 UNICEF conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, and as the President of the National Commission of UNESCO in Mozambique. In addition to her many contributions, Ms. Machel also served on the international steering committee of the World Conference on Education for All, held in 1990.
Ms. Machel was recently appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations as an Expert to Chair the Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. The Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, the first of its kind in the history on the United Nations, seeks to demonstrate to the world community the necessity of adopting effective measures for the promotion and protection of the rights of the children who are victims of armed conflicts, and to stimulate much greater international action to this end.