Item 1050 - Address at Youth Forum, September 2003

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ZA COM MR-S-1050


Address at Youth Forum, September 2003


  • 2003-09-22 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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Youth Forum on HIV/Aids

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  • English

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Meeting and speaking with the youth are always encounters that inspire and uplift me, reaffirming my faith in the capacity of humankind to build a better future.

It is in your hands now to learn from the past - from the noble endeavours as well as the failures and mistakes - and to strive to improve on those efforts of previous generations.

The freshness and enthusiasm of youth, and its courage to dare always give me hope for the future.

South African youth played an enormously important and heroic role in the defeat of Apartheid. It was often with great sadness that we observed how they sacrificed the innocence of their youth to resist the might of the Apartheid state; our sadness was, however, always mixed with even greater admiration for the courage and commitment of the young people of our country.

As we now set about the reconstruction and development of our country and society after the defeat of Apartheid, the role of young people has increased in its importance and centrality. The nobility of our struggle demands that we translate it into building the new South Africa into a winning nation. You, the youth, are the ones now carrying the baton for the new nation.

We have to consolidate and deepen our hard fought victory for democracy: the democratic impulse and practice must live in every fibre of our society. We must build and grow our economy with a spirit of entrepreneurship, always aiming at building a better life for all, particularly the poor and the vulnerable. We must deepen our capacity in science and scholarship so that as a nation our people can to the maximum fulfil their potential.

In short, we owe it to ourselves and all those that contributed to our liberation, to become a leading nation in all of those fields: the strength of our democracy, the performance of our economy, the depth of our scientific and scholarly capacity.

The major responsibility for ensuring that kind of future rests on you - the youth.

Within the challenges facing you into that future nothing looms larger and more ominously than the threat posed by HIV/AIDS.

South Africans are beyond arguments about statistics or debates about causality or controversies about the relative efficacy of medication. We are faced with the simple stark reality that HIV/AIDS threatens our future like nothing else has done for the last number of centuries.

HIV/AIDS is devastating families and communities; overwhelming and depleting health care services; and robbing schools of both students and teachers.

Business has suffered losses of personnel, productivity and profits; economic growth is being undermined and scarce development resources have to be diverted to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.

HIV/AIDS is having a devastating impact on families, communities, societies and economies. Decades have been chopped from life expectancy and young child mortality is expected to more than double in the most severely affected countries of Africa, including South Africa. AIDS is clearly a disaster, effectively wiping out the development gains of the past decades and sabotaging the future.

The fight against AIDS will indeed require another social revolution. Once more the youth of our country are called upon to play a leading role in a social revolution as they did so heroically in the revolutionary struggle against Apartheid.

There are many aspects to this revolution and each of us will find different roles to play in this comprehensive war we need to conduct in order to defeat this enemy. As in all wars - and as was the case in the anti-apartheid struggle - partnerships, alliances and networks of co-operation are required.

We need across the spectrum of society ways to support government in its treatment plan to provide life saving treatment for all who need it.

We need involvement in counselling and educational efforts at preventing the spread of the pandemic.

We need a fundamental change of mind-set with regards to the way we speak and behave about sex and sexuality. Boys and men have a particularly critical role in this regard, changing the chauvinist and demeaning ways sexuality and women were traditionally dealt with in both our actions and speaking.

The fight against AIDS goes beyond the physical and physiological; it challenges our thinking and our approach to many aspects of life. Success in the war against AIDS might in the end contribute in many ways to us building a more decent society, one in which we care more deeply for each other.

Let us start that war by breaking the silence around the issue of HIV/AIDS. Stigmatisation and silence are as serious killers as the virus itself. Much of the progress we have made in this country in combating AIDS is due to the growing tide of speaking about HIV/AIDS publicly and clearly, and the growing public willingness to embrace and support those living with HIV/AIDS.

As important as medicine and treatment are, people living with HIV/AIDS need even more importantly love, support and compassion.

HIV/AIDS seriously threatens our future. But I want to leave you with a message of hope and positiveness. The fight against HIV/AIDS offers us the opportunity to once more reach deeply into that pool of humane caring and human compassion that characterised us as a people in our struggle against Apartheid. Once more, our people from all backgrounds, genders or age groups shall rally to a call to come together to save our nation from destruction.

And you, the youth, shall give the lead!

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation. Accessioned on 24/02/09 by Razia Saleh




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