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The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund strives to change the way society treats its children and youth. This long-term vision captures the central role society plays in shaping children’s lives.

To give voice and dignity to the African child by building a rights-based movement


  • The absolute belief that all children should enjoy the absence of hunger, abuse, exploitation and homelessness, underpinned by a clear notion that the eradication of poverty and its systemic causes are the ultimate desired change as opposed to ameliorating difficult circumstances in which targeted beneficiaries find themselves.
  • The belief that it is possible to have a world where children live with dignity, are safe, nurtured and their voices heard and that the transformation needed to create such a world needs every part of society to play its role.
  • A commitment to applying holistic and integrated approaches that recognise and treat children as part of families and communities, with institutional placements applied as the exception.
  • Children, youth and communities must participate in making decisions that affect      their lives.
  • The viable application of service delivery approaches that are informed by      children’s constitutional rights and, specifically with reference to the      notion that all children have dreams and aspirations and should thus be afforded the opportunity to reach their full potential.
  • The promotion of a culture of best practices, innovation and openness to new      learning and professionalism in achieving targeted, measurable results.


Driven by his love for children and a desire to end their suffering, former President Mandela established the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) in 1995. From 1996 to 1998, NMCF successfully mobilized over R36 million to fund over 780 projects, at an average of R40, 000 per project. Grounded in the legacy of its founder, NMCF initially operated as a grant-making organization promoting a humanitarian response to the plight of South Africa ‘s children and youth. The 1995-1999 period was characterised by ad hoc funding strategies that enabled children and families to meet immediate needs, and one-time support for overhead and salary costs for organisations targeting children’s issues, with no particular programmatic basis for NMCF’s engagement with these organisations.

During 1999, NMCF realised that this welfare or handout approach was not sustainable as it did not encourage community involvement nor did it address the array of growing organizational capacity issues. To inform a new approach, NMCF conducted an extensive review of national and regional policies on children and youth; identified several significant policy gaps; evaluated its portfolio of projects and internal procedures; and carefully defined programme intervention areas it would pursue. This review culminated in the launching, in the year 2000, of the Sakha Ikusasa strategy, reflecting a new programme and organizational approach for the period 2000-2005, and establishing NMCF as a funding cum development agency that seeks to change the ways in which society treats its children and youth in order to improve their conditions and lives.