Human Rights Day: 21 March 2019
This month we celebrate Human Rights Day – a day historically intertwined with our losses, our struggles, our ability to overcome and to achieve in the face of diversity.
But what exactly is Human Rights Day, and why should we care so much about it?
According to the United Nations, human rights are inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, nationality or creed. They include a variety of things, such as the right to education, life and liberty, freedom from slavery or torture and freedom of expression. In simple English, a human right is your right to be human – a human free to live with basic respect and dignity.
It’s easy to see why we in South Africa place emphasis on this.
Our long and storied history has been unpacked in detail – so much so, there’s not much we can say which hasn’t been said. However, it’s because of this history that we as a country appreciate the importance of our rights. It’s said you don’t know what you have until it’s gone and, having lived through it, we South Africans understand the significance of human rights more than most.
The 21st March is meant to commemorate one of our country’s darkest days – the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre. This tragic event almost 60 years ago saw 69 deaths and a further 180 injuries after police opened fire on peaceful protesters. Today, Human Rights Day stands as a testament – a testament to sacrifice, bravery, and unison. A testament to the cost of the rights we enjoy today. A testament to the power of standing up for what’s right even in the adversity – of preferring to die for freedom over living in injustice.
Most of us enjoy it because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love public holidays and the possibilities that come with them? There’s nothing wrong with sleeping in, enjoying a cold one and just taking it easy, but it’s also vitally important to remember. Why? Because failing to remember just once is to risk forgetting forever – and we should never forget how far we’ve come.
South Africa has a long and sometimes tragic history. Sadly, we can’t go back in time to fix it. What we can do, however, is pave the way for a brighter tomorrow. And the simple truth is tomorrow begins today.
But what does creating a brighter future entail? How do we, who often have no control over decisions, play a role in spearheading a better tomorrow? It’s simple. Big things are made of little things, so we say start by taking it one step at a time.
Mahatma Ghandi once said: “be the change you want to see in the world”. And that’s what we suggest when we talk about respecting human rights. We may not be able to change everyone. What we can do, however, is instill small changes in ourselves first and hope that others follow suit.
The challenges we once faced seemed insurmountable – and for good reason. However, if South Africa is one thing, it’s an example of the power of perseverance and unity. When things got tough, we kept going – day by day, bit by bit, until the struggle we faced crumbled in our wake.
Likewise, it’s no secret that our country faces numerous issues today. Let these not be a means of discouragement – change is possible. It’s attainable. And, together, it can be achieved.
Our advice this Heritage Day is to introspect. Reflect on what you don’t like, not in government or society, but in yourself. It could be anger. It could be impatience. It could be forgetting to stop and smell the roses. Once that’s done, resolve to fix it one step at a time.
It’s important to note that human rights are not just about you, the individual. They’re about everyone. And what’s the point in propagating for a better society if we can’t embody the changes we seek?
Here we are in 2019 and things have taken an upturn. We can safely say that we live in a melting pot of cultures, faiths, beliefs and religions. Many may gripe about various socio-political issues, but the resounding undisputed truth is that we are a country largely free of discrimination or racial oppression. If anything, we welcome those of different faiths.
Which is why at Sandton Central, we aim to welcome people from all walks of life. We believe that we have a moral obligation to allow all our visitors to feel free, safe and able to express themselves.
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