Courage, Commitment, and Capacity Building on Dag Hammarskjöld’s Legacy
The Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture 2003 given by Mamphela Ramphele on 29 September at Uppsala University Hall
Mamphela Ramphele is an outstanding citizen of Africa with an exceptional record of achievement in many different fields, including community health development, civil rights activism, scholarship and high-level administration.
Born near Pietersburg in the Northern Province of South Africa, she started her adult life in the 1970s as a student activist in the struggle against apartheid and was closely associated with Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement. As a medical doctor and community development worker she chose to work among some of the poorest people in society. Her work as a civil rights leader led to her being banished in 1977 by the South African government for seven years to the remote township of Lenyeneye. Here she continued her work with the rural poor and set up the Ithuseng Community Health Programme.
She returned to academic study in 1984, joining the University of Cape Town as a research fellow and completed her doctoral dissertation in Social Anthropology at the beginning of the 1990s. By that time, she was already the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the university. Being an ideal person to oversee and influence the transition from Apartheid structures to democratic rule in the academic environment, she was appointed Vice-Chancellor in 1996, becoming the first African woman to hold that position in South Africa.
Dr Ramphele also received much acclaim for her leadership of the World Bank–UNESCO Task Force on Higher Education and Society, which completed its work in early 2000 (Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise). This work led, later the same year, to an important appointment at the World Bank as Managing Director for Human Development. She is the first African and second woman ever to hold such a position.
Dr Ramphele’s life story is a fascinating blend of academic excellence, outstanding managerial ability and community activism. In all the fields in which she has been involved, she has carried out her work with great passion and courage.
This is also reflected in the authorship of several books, including her autobiography Across Boundaries (1995) and the recent Steering by the Stars (2002) about a group of underprivileged young people from the time of apartheid to now. As early as 1990 she was a recipient of the Noma Award, given to African writers and scholars publishing in Africa.
Mamphela Ramphele has also received numerous prestigious national and international awards, including 16 honorary doctorates acknowledging her scholarship, service to the community and her leading role in raising development issues and spearheading projects for the most disadvantaged sectors of the community.