Nelson Mandela grew up in poverty. His father died and he went to live with his uncle who wanted to marry him off to one of the village girls.
But Nelson had other plans. He ran away to the big city of Johannesburg and it was there that he came into contact with apartheid, which means 'apartness'. Blacks were separated from the whites and they were treated badly and unfairly. Nelson hated injustice and could not accept the way that people were treated differently because of the colour of their skin. He didn't want his children – or any South African children – to grow up with apartheid. He said that he was prepared to die to give the children a better future. His struggle against apartheid and for the freedom of South Africa's children cost him 27 years in prison.
During his fight against apartheid, Nelson Mandela burnt his passport, issued by the racist regime.
Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa in 1994. He made sure that all the unfair laws were abolished. Today, black and white children can be friends and they all have equal rights.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Graça Machel, at the time that they were awarded the World’s Children’s Prize.
Text: Annika Forsberg Langa
Photo: Louise Gubb