On the 18th of July 1918, Nelson Mandela was born and in 2009, his birthday was decreed by the UN to become Mandela Day, celebrating his achievements and promoting the fights for equality. Mandela was undoubtedly a great man who changed the world in terms of socialism, suffrage, education, but most importantly black South African Rights. By ending apartheid, Mandela and his supporters ended a white minority rule and implemented a universal suffrage for democracy.
History Lesson: The Mandela/South Africa story is one of the most famous in terms of rejecting European Colonialism. European Colonialism fucked up most of the world, and in particular about 90% of Africa. European world leaders had a map of Africa, basically drew up new boarders and divided it among each other. This created minority white dominance, as seen in South Africa, and also enemy tribes taking power and mass murdering other tribes forced into the same country, as seen in Rwanda. The Rwandan Genocide between the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s is definitely the most harrowing example of how Europeans created new countries and new boarders without the consideration of their existing population, only thinking of themselves. And when they left, they left behind a country broken.
History lesson and European guilt aside, Mandela’s story is one of persistence, resilience, victory and most importantly, rights. Being riddled with European guilt, It’s hard for me to try and fight back against colonialism without being snapped back with a ‘but you reap the benefits of our race’ and ‘champagne socialist’. So while watching Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom…
…I knew I needed to find and fight for something that affects me. The pay gap. In Australia, although pay discrimination was made illegal in the 1969 and sex discrimination in 1984, it is a sad fact of life that women are still being paid, on average, 17.21% less than men. Based on earnings and not wages. The state I live in, Western Australia, is the worst in the country with this figure being around 26%. I am smarter than my brothers, if you look at grades, why am I being paid less?
Nelson Mandela famously said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. So I need to educate myself and others to try and right this wrong. Equal pay for equal work is one of my rights that I am denied.
Why is it denied? There is one answer. The class ceiling is a pretty good explanation, systemic sexism is also pretty good but these are reasons that most men won’t admit to. Most men will say things like ‘women don’t work as hard’ but this is bullshit, the statistics are taking from equal work and it’s still 17.21%. People, Australia in particular, just don’t like change, and for most of world history the idea of women working, let alone for the same pay, is unprecedented. But guess what Australia? Everything is unprecedented until is happens for the first time. You cannot stop progress and you cannot stop me from getting my rights.
I am not Nelson Mandela, so I can only start small and work my way up. But the important thing is that I am starting at all. Education is powerful so next semester I am taking units called ‘The Politics of Gender’, ‘Social Movements’, ‘African American History’ and ‘White Supremacy’ (the last one sounds neo-nazi but believe me it’s criticizing white supremacy, not promoting it). I want to educate myself more than I already have on how to earn my rights as a human and then from that educate others.
All I want to do is learn and teach and earn the same amount as my brothers on merit. Nelson Mandela, you are an inspiration for my lust to change the world, and change my world.
What I learnt from Mandela Day – Changing the world for equal rights is a long one, but doing nothing and waiting for the world to change is longer. #EqualPayForEqualWork.