South Africans have been urged to use Human Rights Month as a vehicle to foster social cohesion, nation building, national identity and socio-economic development, as well as a means to halt xenophobia and homophobia.
These Play Your Part ambassadors articulate what Human Rights month means to them.
HUMAN RIGHTS FOR AFRICA
“Madiba championed the fight for human rights not only in South Africa, but also across the African continent and around the world,” says Danielle Melville, the director of communications and outreach at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. “With his vision of a South African democratic society free of racism and prejudice, Madiba encouraged tolerance and forgiveness.
“He enabled us to imagine a future where the most vulnerable and marginalised people would be free from fear and want and presented a vision of the global system in which every person has equal rights, no one is above the law and social justice is a reality.”
Mandela was affectionately known as Madiba, his clan name. In explaining what Human Rights Month means to her, Melville repeats a quote of his from 2005: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” This is a call to action for all global citizens, she says. “In order to truly live Mandela’s legacy, we should constantly work towards an equal and poverty-free world.”
“Women’s rights are human rights,” says poet Bulelwa Basse, the founder of Lyrical Base Project. “As South Africans, we all need to take great responsibility towards the economic, social, political and cultural empowerment of women. Society cannot holistically progress until women are fully integrated within it, until there is no gender bias at any level.”
She adds that although the Constitution renders all South African citizens free and equal, women still face discrimination in their daily lives.
“The number of female executives in this country is far less than our male counterparts. Women also experience gender-based violence and other forms of prejudice and abuse. The rights of strong South African women need to be recognised and respected, to ensure a prosperous and thriving future of our beloved country.”
LEADERSHIP AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Thabo Isaac Serame, the project manager at Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development, explains that as South African citizens, “we ought to play a critical part in adding value in our youth through having programmes which will enshrine a culture of education and entrepreneurship, as these are the pivotal attributes of both development of self and development of others.
“This, of course, is driven by a collaborative journey of various stakeholders such as the government, the private sector, non-profit organisations and the various communities at large,” he says.
“Therefore if such strategic collaborations can result, South Africa can see a better tomorrow. Always remember, we are who we are, because of others. Therefore the betterment of others, is a betterment of self.”
Serame also turns to Mandela for inspiration. “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. It is through education that a son of a miner, can be a mine owner,” he quotes. Everyone has rights, he adds, “but more so we have responsibilities to actually manage ourselves, manage our choices and decisions, actually live to be effective and impactful people”.
Lorraine Mofokeng and Nompumelelo Runji, from the Sowetan, believe that for South Africa to truly embody the ideals of a rainbow nation and ubuntu, each citizen has the responsibility to rid themselves of intolerance, embrace acceptance and extend a hand to others. They should show not only other South Africans, but also the world that they care about their fellow humans, and by extension their country; because the strength of South Africa lies in its people.
South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, the two add, saying it is important that as a nation we continue to respect the rights of fellow South Africans.
“We need stop discrimination across all social, economic and cultural lines, because although we are all equal before the law, many South Africans still harbour the seeds of injustice and discrimination against their neighbours.”
Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane are the owners of Rethaka and the pioneers of the Repurpose Schoolbag, an ingenious idea that does a lot more with less. The bags are designed for schoolchildren from underprivileged communities who have little or no electricity. They are made entirely from recycled plastic, and have embedded in them solar panels which charge a lantern during the child’s walk to school. This way, in the evening the child has light to use for studying.
“Young South Africans have a fundamental responsibility to participate in meaningful action with the primary purpose to better our reality,” they say. “The youth have been fortunate enough to be socialised in a just South Africa, where freedom, human dignity and political rights are extended to all. We are to realise that democratic equality does not equate to economic equality.
“For us to get there, we as the youth need to use opportunities afforded to us through education and non-discrimination to propel us towards the audacious dreams we may have for ourselves, our community and ultimately our country.”
VALUES OF DIGNITY
Vuyo Jack and Sithembiso Ntombela, are from Global Dignity Club, a network of learners who are organised into clubs in their schools and immerse themselves in projects that will give dignity to them and others in theirs schools and communities.
“We still have an obligation to empower, instil and impart values of dignity to South African citizens, especially among the youth because dignity is one the key principles entrenched in our Constitution,” they explain. “It is therefore at the centre of being as a human right.”
Reflecting on human rights as a South African always conjures up images of freedom fighters marching, while singing struggle songs for their freedom, the say. These are freedoms which “we, as young people, have been fortunate enough to be afforded at birth. Freedoms that encourage, motivate and help us to pursue our hopes, dreams and ambitions – irrespective of race, gender, cultural or religious beliefs.”