22 July 2021
Renowned humanitarian and activist Graça Machel challenged the next generation to be progressive thought leaders and innovators that the Global South needs them to be in the wake of the pandemic and labels vaccine nationalism as a “moral bankruptcy”.
Upon receiving a Doctor of Laws from SOAS as part of the university’s end of year celebrations 2021, Ms Machel said that the class of 2021 “is well positioned to identify ways in which we can recover from the devastation we are experiencing and emerge more resilient, vibrant and equal” in her acceptance speech.
Ms Machel criticised the hoarding of vaccines by the world’s wealthiest countries and stated that the financing of the vaccines is insufficient and is leaving the Global South behind.
Speaking via a pre-recorded video to the SOAS Class of 2021, Graça Machel said that, “The so-called global recovery [from the pandemic] has not been global nor a recovery at all. Millions of people, particularly in the Global South are still suffering from the clutches of Covid and burying loved ones at alarming rates.”
Ms Machel went on to highlight the increased inequality caused by the pandemic especially for women and children, stating “painful chasims of inequities between the haves and have nots are intensifying right before our eyes on a daily basis. Hundreds of millions of people are falling into extreme poverty and we are confronted with the worst rise of income inequality in recorded history.”
Graça Machel was appointed as SOAS President in 2012 and held the position until 2020. She delivered the keynote address to graduating students until 2019.
About Graça Machel
Graça Machel is an African stateswoman whose decades long professional and public life is rooted in Mozambique’s struggle for self-rule and international advocacy for women and children’s rights. She is a former freedom fighter in Mozambique’s FRELIMO movement and that country’s first Minister of Education. In the years following her tenure in government, Graça produced a ground-breaking UNICEF report on the impact of armed conflict on children that changed the way the United Nations and member states respond in conflict zones. Since then, she has worked tirelessly in support of global health, child welfare, and women’s rights and empowerment. Graça works through several regional and international development bodies to accelerate social transformation. She is a founding member and Deputy Chair of The Elders, and played a key role in establishing Girls Not Brides, and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group.