Graça Machel

International advocate for women’s and children's rights; former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique.

Speaker Fee Range: Please inquire for fees

Travels From: South Africa

Graça Machel is available for virtual keynotes and webinars. Please complete the form or contact one of our agents to inquire about the fees for virtual engagements. Please note: the fee range listed above is for in-person engagements.

Education Speaker Graca Machel
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    Graça Machel

    International advocate for women’s and children's rights; former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique.

    Speaker Fee Range: Please inquire for fees

    Travels From: South Africa

    Graça Machel is available for virtual keynotes and webinars. Please complete the form or contact one of our agents to inquire about the fees for virtual engagements. Please note: the fee range listed above is for in-person engagements.

    Graça Machel Speaker Biography

    Graça Machel is one of the world’s leading advocates for women’s and children’s rights and has been a social justice and political activist for many decades. She established the Graça Machel Trust in 2010 as a Pan-African advocacy organisation focused on child health and nutrition, education, women’s economic and financial empowerment, leadership and good governance.

    As a young student, Graça left Portugal where she was studying thanks to a scholarship and fled to Switzerland to escape the prison sentence that was almost certainly waiting for her due to her political activities as a student. In 1973, while she was in Europe she joined the Marxist-based Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO), an organised resistance movement that was steadily gaining ground in the struggle against colonialism from the Portuguese.

    In September 1975, she married Samora Machel, the first president of newly independent Mozambique. When Mozambique became independent and FRELIMO formed the country’s first government in 1975, Machel became a member of Frelimo’s Central Committee and the Minister of Education and Culture. As Minister for Education until 1989, Graça Machel worked to implement FRELIMO’s goal of universal education for all Mozambicans. From 1975 to 1985, the number of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools rose from about 40 percent of all school-aged children to over 90 percent for males and 75 percent for females.

    Machel is recognised for her dedication to educating the people of Mozambique, and for her leadership in organisations devoted to the children of her war-torn country. She has been a major force in increasing literacy and schooling in Mozambique and has spoken of the needs and rights of children, families and community, from platforms all over the world.

    Following President Machel’s death in a plane crash on 19 October 1986, she resigned her post as Minister of Education, leaving behind a sterling record-1.5 million children in school, as against 400,000 when she had arrived. As Minister of Education to the new government, she was able to reduce the illiteracy rate by 72%.

    In the 1990s, the friendship between Graca and Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, whom Machel has known since her husband’s death deepened. The couple married on 18 July 1998. And thus, she became the only woman in the world’s history to become first lady of 2 different countries.

    Over the years, Machel has gained international recognition for her achievements. Her many awards include the Laureate of Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger from the Hunger Project in 1992 and in 1995 the Nansen Medal in recognition of her contribution to the welfare of refugee children. She has received the Inter Press Service’s (IPS) International Achievement Award for her work on behalf of children internationally, the Africare Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award and the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe, among others.

    In 2008, the University of Barcelona, Spain, awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa to Machel. She has served on the boards of numerous international organisations, including the UN Foundation, the Forum of African Women Educationalists, the African Leadership Forum and the International Crisis Group. Graça is also a founding member of The Elders with her late husband, Nelson Mandela.

    In October 2018, Graça Machel was appointed Deputy Chair of The Elders, alongside fellow Elder Ban Ki-moon.

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    Graça Machel Keynote Topics

    Graça Machel joined the Mozambican Liberation Front in 1973 as a schoolteacher. When Mozambique gained its independence two years later, she became the country’s first Minister of Education and Culture – the only woman in the cabinet.

    Between 1975 and 1989 she was responsible for overseeing an increase in primary school enrolment from 40 per cent of children to over 90 per cent of boys and 75 per cent of girls. As chairperson of the National Organisation of Children of Mozambique, she has also worked closely with families to promote literacy and rehabilitate children affected by the country’s long civil war.

    For Mrs Machel, the struggle for the right to education and development continues. “It is the meaning of what my life has been since a youth – to try to fight for the dignity and the freedom of my own people.”

    In 1994, the United Nations Secretary-General appointed Graça Machel as an independent expert to carry out an assessment of the impact of armed conflict on children. Her groundbreaking report recommended the rehabilitation and social integration of children affected by conflict – with emphasis on providing opportunities to access education and skills development for all. The Machel Report established a new and innovative agenda for the comprehensive protection of children caught up in war, changing the policy and practice of governments, UN agencies, and international and national civil society.

    In 1995, Graça Machel was awarded the Nansen Medal in recognition of her contribution to the welfare of refugee children.

    Graça Machel remains a fierce advocate for Africa’s successes and potential. As President of the Foundation for Community Development (FDC), a not-for-profit Mozambican organisation she founded in 1994, she promotes development by increasing community access to information and technology. The FDC makes grants to civil society organisations to strengthen communities, facilitate social and economic justice, and assist in the reconstruction and development of post-war Mozambique. Mrs Machel founded the Graça Machel Trust which advocates for the rights of women and children on the African continent, as well as good governance and democracy.

    Mrs Machel has also served on the boards of numerous organisations working to prevent conflict and advance development, including the UN Foundation, the Forum of African Women Educationalists, the African Leadership Forum, and International Crisis Group. She was Chair of the Fund Board for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) for almost 10 years as well as Eminent Person of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), and is currently the Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

    In recognition of her lifelong efforts to promote human rights, education and development, Graça Machel has received the Laureate of Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger (1992), the Inter Press Service’s International Achievement Award (1998), the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe (1998) and the Africare Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award (1999), among others.

    Graça Machel Speaking Videos

    Special Keynote Address by Mrs Graça
    Graça Machel