HOUSTON - He's known for being a revolutionary and gained respect from people all over the world. Now Nelson Mandela's granddaughter is in Houston.
We caught up with Ndileka Mandela smiling, laughing and posing for pictures at a women's conference here in Houston, however, life hasn't always been so carefree for her. She's the oldest grandchild of Mr. Mandela.
“Granddad was an extraordinary person. I think men like him are born once in a lifetime,” smiles Ndileka who actually wasn't allowed to meet her grandfather until she was well into her teens. You see, Mandela was thrown in prison in 1962 for fighting against apartheid and kids 15 and under were not permitted in the prison. So shortly after her 16th birthday Nelson Mandela met his first grandchild.
“Behind prison walls, through a glass panel, talking through an intercom. I couldn't touch him. I had to touch a window and kiss a window. To see him under those conditions it was not very nice,” explains Ndileka.
She remembers the first time she actually touched her grandfather years after they first met.
“It felt so surreal to touch and feel him” but as awful as it was seeing him in prison Ndileka says unbelievably, for her, it was worse once Mandela was released from prison and became "The Father of The Nation", the President of South Africa.
”It was something I resented for the longest time because I missed the times I spent with him in prison because those were the quality times, spending one-on-one and when he got released there were all these people around him”.
Granddaughter and grandfather were able to eventually re-establish their bond and Ndileka says her grandfather was one of the funniest people she ever met.
She was there for Mandela when he became ill and ultimately died in 2013 at 95 years old. She's continuing her grandfather's humanitarian work, traveling the world fighting for women. In fact, that's why she's in Houston, for the Pan African Women's Economic Empowerment Summit put on by the non-profit group We Lead International. Ms. Mandela will be speaking at the conference Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the West Loop Marriott in the Galleria Area.
A big part of what her foundation does is donate sanitary protection for rural African girls who otherwise can’t go to school when they’re menstruating.
”We raise funds to supply sanitary wear to rural girls because 3 million girls are effected by this. I'm living my purpose and I am fulfilled and I'm content every day that I'm changing girls lives,” smiles Ndileka. The 51 year old says if she leads by example others will join her journey.