The Republic of South Africa was the first country to ban discrimination based on all the core dimensions of Diversity, gender, race, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation, not just in the Civil Code but in their Constitution. This is one of the many enduring elements supporting diversity, respect and inclusion which the grand personality and far-sightedness of Nelson Mandela has created for his country in the course of his exceptional life. His autobiography ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’ contains impressive descriptions of decades of apartheid and how he survived cruelty. He described his personal journey as if it naturally lead to his spirit of reconciliation – instead of revenge – which facilitated South Africa to recreate its identity under the slogan ‘Proudly South African’. This pride was extremely unlikely to include all South Africans as apartheid had established a fiercely segregated society for decades.
Having worked in South Africa and with South Africans on a large global D&I programme, I had the opportunity and pleasure to discover in depth the multiple layers on which Nelson Mandela’s leadership has created understanding and respect for differences including gender, the many local tribal groups, international ethnic groups and sexual minorities. It has been the consistency if not rigorousness that has made much of the difference in his acts. And this is where today’s and tomorrow’s politicians should learn from him to remove the many disadvantages, discriminations and segregations that continue to exist – or are even newly created! – in too many countries, even in developed regions. Their ambitions to create strong and prosperous nations could be achieved more effectively and to a greater extent if they were able to unity people under an umbrella of diversity rather than exclude many groups for ideological reasons.
And of course we Diversity practitioners can learn from the many ways in which Nelson Mandela did things differently and even in revolutionary ways to bring formerly segregated people together and let them create an understanding for each others perspectives, needs and approaches. Please, let his spirit guide you when reading the latest EMEA DiversityNews. Then go celebrate D&I – it is what the creator of the rainbow nations would have wanted you to do.