Umtata Christian School pupils with their Global Dignity Day certificates.
On Wednesday 15 October young South Africans celebrated Global Dignity Day. The day aims to promote the importance of dignity and teach how to help others lead a dignified life. On the day, thousands of volunteers across the world worked to instil a new, positive, inclusive and interconnected sense of value in young people that will guide them as they grow to adulthood.
What is Global Dignity?
“Dignity is the source of human rights.” This was a key realisation for Vuyo Jack, one of the founders of the Global Dignity Club, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, selected in 2009. Jack was intrigued by the Global Day initiative, co-founded by a group of his fellow Young Global Leaders, Prince Haakon, the crown Prince of Norway, John Hope Bryant and Prof Pekka Himanen.
The initiative was inspired by Prince Haakon’s visit to South Africa in the early days of democracy, where he experienced the importance of dignity in people’s lives. “We wanted to build on this inspiration by extending Global Dignity Day celebrations to many people through a summit in 2010 which was attended by young professionals from and around South Africa,” says Jack.
This journey took them around the country covering the nine provinces with a goal of engaging learners from different backgrounds. This compelled them to conceptualise a more sustainable programme for learners where they could engage and take action on matters relating to dignity in their environment, proactively, on a daily basis. This is how the Global Dignity Club programme was established in January 2013.
Brand South Africa then joined forces with the Global Dignity movement through the Play Your Part programme. The campaign is aimed at preparing students for their journey towards cultivating the ability to empathise with others and to instil in them the recognition that every life has equal value.
The focus is on accelerating the execution of the National Development Plan (NDP) by taking a community-centric approach to the socioeconomic, academic and entrepreneurial development of learners.
The South African Dignity campaign has since reached more than 15 000 school learners in nine provinces across the country. The message of dignity is centred on education, financial literacy and the values of ubuntu. Ubuntu is largely understood as an expression of kindness to the vulnerable other. It’s a phenomenon that has less to do with social vulnerability but more about social assertiveness. The concept speaks to the ability of one to claim what is rightfully theirs in relation to the other.
The Umtata Christian School
Last year, when the campaign was launched, the Umtata Christian School in the Eastern Cape came up with the idea to start a soup kitchen, a drama club and career expos – on a budget of only R2 000 – as part of their contribution to Global Dignity Day.
The soup kitchen helps feed homeless people in the area as a way to restore their dignity. The drama club is set to teach performing arts skills to the school’s pupils while simultaneously spreading the message of dignity. With the careers expo, the club adopted three schools in the rural area of Tsolo on the outskirts of Mthatha, with the intention to guide underprivileged learners in career choices and self-introspection that goes into choosing a career.
As part of Global Dignity Day celebrations, the learners of Umtata Christian School applied their minds to an integrated programme, performing a play, reflecting on the year by showing videos of the community work they had done throughout the year, such as donating old clothes to the unfortunate and painting a day care centre. They also created a space for participation from the audience by allowing speakers to talk to what dignity means in various spaces, such a spiritual environment and how dignity applies to relationships, as a way to propagate the gospel of dignity to members of their community and the learners.
Play Your Part
These smaller community initiatives are entirely developed by learners of the club and executed with help from their mentors and teachers. This lays the foundation early on in their education and the value of active citizenship. They are taught to inspire new ways to make a fundamental change in their respective communities. By such activities which are made appealing to youngsters, they are able to display initiative and leadership abilities, which will be key to realising the development goals outlined in the NDP and Vision 2030.
In partnership with the Global Dignity Club, Brand South Africa handed out certificates to all the learners of the Club, as a way to encourage them to continue playing their part in their communities and grow to be active citizens of the country. After all, today’s youth will make up the workforce of 2030, so their input and involvement is crucial.