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Human Rights Day – Equality, Human Dignity and Freedom.

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This day is both a celebration of the rights of all citizens and a solemn remembrance of the suffering and sacrifice of the terrible 1960 Sharpeville massacre and the struggle against apartheid.

Sixty years ago, South Africans gathered to protest against the pass laws that restricted and controlled travel, dictating when, where, and for how long black South Africans could stay within white areas. Saddening, we saw 69 deaths and a further 180 injuries after police opened fire on these protestors.

But while remembering this, we can also today celebrate what has positively resulted from this occasion. Equality: every South African is equal before the law and has the right to protection and benefit of the law. Human dignity: every South African has the right to inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected. And freedom of movement and residence: every South African has the right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.

How can each one of us make a difference?

It is important to recognise that respect for human rights is intimately linked to social and economic development. Giving women equal rights to work and own property helps boost the economic prospects of a country. Allowing citizens to voice their views freely and peacefully about matters that concern them helps promote tolerance and stability. And taking children off the streets and into schools, and protecting them against abuse, exploitation and trafficking is one of the most effective ways of investing in the future.

Human rights mean that young people must be empowered and skilled to gain the necessary experience to enter into the job market. We must also endeavour to involve them in community-based nation building activities so that they could become catalysts of change and development.

Human rights also mean that women must be included in the mainstream of society, both in the public and private spheres. We must at all times strive to eliminate all forms of discriminatory and repressive laws against women to restore their dignity and human rights. Women must enjoy equal opportunities and equal representation.

It also means that the elderly must be taken care of and treated with respect, dignity and compassion.

We are embracing who we once were, but most importantly, who we’ve become, and we should welcome ways to persevere and unite. We’re going to pull this off, simply by doing things together, step by step.
Start with yourself and influence others around youfrom the individual to the collective.

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