Graça Machel

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Graça Machel
Madame Graca Machel.jpg
Graça Machel in 2010
First Lady of South Africa
In role
18 July 1998 – 14 June 1999
President Nelson Mandela
Preceded by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela*
Succeeded by Zanele Mbeki
Mozambican Minister for Education and Culture
In office
First Lady of Mozambique
In role
11 November 1975 – 19 October 1986
President Samora Machel
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Marcelina Chissano
Personal details
Born (1945-10-17) 17 October 1945 (age 72)
Incadine, Mozambique (then Portuguese East Africa)

Josina Z. Machel

Malenga Machel
Alma mater University of Lisbon
Profession Teacher
Graça and Samora Machel hosting Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu, Maputo, 1979
US President Barack Obama greets Graça Machel at the memorial service for her late husband Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg, 2013
Graça Machel at SOAS in 2015

Graça Machel DBE (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈɡɾasɐ mɐˈʃɛɫ]; née Simbine, pronounced [sĩˈbĩni], 17 October 1945) is a Mozambican politician and humanitarian. She is the widow of former South African president Nelson Mandela and of Mozambican president Samora Machel. Machel is an international advocate for women's and children's rights and in 1997 was made a British dame for her humanitarian work.

Graça Machel is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. As a panel member she facilitates coalition building to leverage and broker knowledge, and convenes decision-makers to influence policy for lasting change in Africa.

Graça Machel is the only woman in history to have been first lady of two separate republics,[note 1] serving as the First Lady of Mozambique from 1975 to 1986 and the First Lady of South Africa from 1998 to 1999.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Graça Simbine was born 17 days after her father's death, the youngest of six children,[2] in rural Incadine, Gaza Province, Portuguese East Africa (modern-day Mozambique). She attended Methodist mission schools before gaining a scholarship to the University of Lisbon in Portugal, where she studied German and first became involved in independence issues. She also speaks French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English, as well as her native Shangaan language. Simbine returned to Portuguese East Africa in 1973, joining the Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo) and working as a schoolteacher.

Following Mozambique's independence in 1975, Simbine was appointed Minister for Education and Culture. She married Mozambican first president Samora Machel that same year, changing her last name to Machel. Following her retirement from the Mozambique ministry, Machel was appointed as the expert in charge of producing the groundbreaking United Nations report on the impact of armed conflict on children.[3]

Machel received the 1995 Nansen Medal from the United Nations in recognition of her longstanding humanitarian work, particularly on behalf of refugee children.[4]

In 1998, Machel was one of the two winners of the North–South Prize.[5]

Machel currently serves as the chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH). She also serves as the chair of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) Eminent Advisory Board.[6][7]

Machel has been chancellor of the University of Cape Town since 1999. She was named president of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2012. In 2016, Machel was named Chancellor of the African Leadership University, a role that she still holds today.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Simbine married Samora Machel, the first President of Mozambique, in 1975. They had two children together: Josina and Malengani. Samora Machel died in a plane crash in South Africa in 1986.

Graça Machel married her second husband, Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg on 18 July 1998, Mandela's 80th birthday. At the time, Mandela was serving as the first post-apartheid president of South Africa. Mandela died of pneumonia on 5 December 2013.



The Elders[edit]

On 18 July 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu convened The Elders. Mandela announced its formation in a speech on his 89th birthday. The group works on thematic as well as geographically specific subjects. The Elders' priority issue areas include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Korean Peninsula, Sudan and South Sudan, sustainable development, and equality for girls and women.[13]

Machel has been particularly involved in The Elders' work on child marriage, including the founding of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.[14][15]

The Africa Progress Panel[edit]

Machel is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. Every year, the Panel releases a report, the Africa Progress Report, that outlines an issue of immediate importance to the continent and suggests a set of associated policies.[16]


  1. ^ Other women have been the consort in two separate monarchies. For example, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122?–1204) was queen consort of France and later of England.


  1. ^ "First First Lady of more than one country". Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "Graca Machel: There Is Nothing Exceptional About Me.." This Day Live. 16 August 2014. 
  3. ^ The impact of Armed Conflict on Children. Retrieved on 2011-11-07.
  4. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Nansen Refugee Award". Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "The North South Prize of Lisbon". North-South Centre. Council of Europe. Archived from the original on 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  6. ^ "Eminent Advisory Board". 
  7. ^ "Reaching Every Woman and Every Child through Partnership" (PDF). World Health Organization. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Evening with Graca Machel and Fred Swaniker". Evening with Graca Machel and Fred Swaniker. Ayiba Team. 4 November 2015. 
  9. ^ "Our Leadership - ALU". ALU. Retrieved 2017-05-01. 
  10. ^ "Graça Machel (Mozambique)". Archived from the original on 4 July 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.  . United Nations Foundation profile
  11. ^ "UMass honors Nelson Mandela with honorary degree - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  12. ^ "Graca Machel to receive honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch". University of Stellenbosch. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2010. 
  13. ^ "The Elders: Our Work". Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  14. ^ Elisabeth Braw, Metro International (2011-10-10). "Graca Machel: Within Ten Years Women Will Have Changed Africa". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  15. ^ Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu (2012-08-01). "Early marriage robs children of their opportunities". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 January 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 

External links[edit]