Graça Machel is a founding member of The Elders with her husband, Nelson Mandela. She is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights, a former freedom fighter and the first Education Minister of Mozambique.
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 an Elder, she took part in the organisation’s first mission in October 2007 to Sudan together with Jimmy Carter, Lakhdar Brahimi and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. She spent time in Darfur, highlighting the issue of rape and gender-based violence in the region.
She was a member of the High-level UN Panel on post-2015 development agenda (2012-2013) that helped develop the Sustainable Development Goals, the launch of which she attended with her fellow Elders at the UN SDG summit in September 2015.