12/05/2013 07:24 EST | Updated 12/06/2013 11:13 EST

Nelson Mandela Wife: Graca Machel A Respected Humanitarian In Her Own Right

Steve Russell via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 17: Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel at the renaming of Park Public School to Nelson Mandela Park Public School in Toronto, November 17, 2001 (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

They were married on his 80th birthday. Now, in Nelson Mandela's 95th year, Graca Machel must say farewell.

The third wife of the revered former South African president was by her husband's side earlier this summer when Mandela was admitted to hospital in June and multiple news reports stated Mandela was in grave condition. Machel, 68, remained quiet amidst the rumours Mandela was in a vegetative state and shortly thereafter the couple celebrated their 15th anniversary on July 18. Mandela made a recovery and returned home. Mandela died months later on December 5.

Machel is, like Mandela, a dedicated humanitarian. She was first married to Mozambican president Samora Michel (also deceased), and was appointed the First Minister of Education in 1975, after the country declared its independence. Since then, her work has included a groundbreaking report on the effect of armed conflict on children and has focused on improving the welfare of children and women in Africa. She has won numerous awards for her humanitarian work, including the Laureate of Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger in 1992, and the Nansen Medal in recognition of her contribution to the welfare of refugee children in 1995. Machel is a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders chaired by Kofi Annan with the goal of working together for peace and human rights. The group was founded by Mandela.

Mandela and his wife met in the early 1990s, and officially became an item after they were spotted holding hands several times, and stealing a kiss at Robert Mugabe's wedding, according to Business Day Live.

Mandela is survived by Machel, his daughter Makaziwe by his first marriage to Evelyn Mase, and daughters Zindzi and Zenani by his second marriage to Winnie Mandela.

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