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BLOG: Human Rights Day 2013 - Mandela was the ultimate social worker

As Human Rights Day is celebrated all over the world today, BASW Professional Officer Nushra Mansuri pays tribute to Nelson Mandela. She writes …

It seems only fitting on Human Rights Day for the social work profession to pay homage to Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest civil liberties leaders and human rights activists the world has ever known.

Nelson Mandela’s life is symbolic of human spirit triumphing over great adversity and the international definition of social work could be seen as the very embodiment of his life: “The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being.”

Mandela’s character also embodied many of the principles of our Code of Ethics:

  • Upholding and promoting human dignity and well being
  • Respecting the right to self-determination
  • Promoting the right to participation
  • Challenging discrimination
  • Recognising diversity
  • Challenging unjust policies and practices
  • Working in solidarity
  • Challenging the abuse of human rights
  • Treating each person as a whole
  • Identifying and developing strengths

Mandela is synonymous with so many campaigns; as well as his legendary work to defeat apartheid in South Africa, he was an instrumental voice in the Make Poverty History movement, in de-stigmatising HIV and AIDs and supporting the family of Stephen Lawrence, both in the wake of his murder and in their fight for justice.

Somehow, it doesn’t feel as if a great light has gone out in the world but on the contrary, burns all the brighter as we commemorate his achievements. 

News of his death was greeted around with scenes of tribute and celebration of this singularly remarkable life and legacy rather than sorrow.

Proving that the hope Mandela inspired is still very much alive, children from the eponymous Nelson Mandela primary school in Sparkbrook, Birmingham were filmed reciting some of his most famous quotes after his death. 

Many new and contemporary visionaries will undoubtedly be inspired by this great man to fight the injustices facing their generation.

As social workers let us always hold on to Mandela’s words: ”A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of."