23 April 2012
Renowned humanitarian and activist, Graça Machel, has been appointed as the new President of SOAS.
Mrs Machel, who is the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, takes over from Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who held the role for 10 years.
“This is an immensely proud moment for SOAS,” said Dr Tim Miller, Chairman of the SOAS Governing Body. “Mrs Machel is highly regarded as an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and for her work as a social and political activist. Her achievements are prolific and she is a huge inspiration to many, including our own staff and students.”
Speaking about her appointment, Graça Machel said: “It is a great honour to accept the position of President of SOAS. SOAS is a highly regarded international institution whose alumni include many students that have gone on to become activists and leaders in economic, political and social change throughout the world. I look forward to making a modest contribution to the outstanding work of SOAS.”
Mrs Machel was born in Mozambique where she served as Minister of Education and Culture from 1975-1989. In 1994, she was appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations as an independent expert to carry out an assessment of the impact of armed conflict on children. Her groundbreaking report, published in 1996, established a comprehensive global agenda for the protection of children’s rights in conflict situations.
She serves in different capacities for various organisations including the Global Elders, the Africa Progress Panel and the UN Millennium Development Goals Advocates Panel and has received numerous awards for her work. She is currently Chancellor of the University of Capetown and is Chair of the Leadership Council for the Campaign to End Paediatric HIV/AIDS. She is one of the founders of the Forum of African Women Educationalists.
SOAS Director Professor Paul Webley commented: “Graça Machel is a wonderful role model for young people. Her education and humanitarian work very much fits with the values and mission of SOAS. We are honoured to have her as our President.”
Co-President of the SOAS Students’ Union, Ali Khan added: “Mrs Machel has already inspired many SOAS graduates to choose a life where they too can make a difference. She is a fitting leader for those who want to bring about change in the global community. The Students' Union has no doubt that she will be an excellent President."
As President, Mrs Machel will preside over graduation and other ceremonies and act as an ambassador for SOAS.