The roots of Human Rights Day in South Africa historically stem from the Sharpeville Massacre of 21 March 1960. A crowd estimated of 7,000 people protested peacefully to the Sharpeville police station, opposing the Pass Laws. Police officers opened fire resulting in 69 people dying and 180 injured. A moment in time in our history, signified a highpoint in our newly democratic country. Today, we commemorate the 21st of March as Human Rights Day to serve as a reminder of our rights as well as the lives that paved the way for our democracy.
This year commemorates the 25th year of the adaption of the Constitution. The South African Constitution encompasses the rights of all persons living in South Africa, affirming the humanness, dignity, equality and freedom of all in our democracy. In 1994 during the South African general election, our Constitution was drawn up by the democratically elected Parliament. In 1996, it was then propagated by President Nelson Mandela in Sharpeville and came into full effect on the 4th of February 1997. It is important to note that no other law or government action can supersede the provisions of the Constitution.
Founding the Children’s FundOne evening in Cape Town, before South Africa’s first democratic election in April 1994, Nelson Mandela was set to attend a meeting when he was stopped by a group of twenty children. His security guards tried to stop them from getting closer because they were dirty and ragged, but Mandela refuted, insisting that these were the children he wanted to see and speak to. The children asked him, “why do you love us?”, to which he asked, “how do you know that I love you?”. The children then responded, “because when you got money from overseas, you gave it to us”. The money in which the children were referring to, was the Nobel Peace Prize money that Mandela had donated to charities centred on children. This encounter stayed with Mandela. “I kept on seeing their faces, so young and yet already so old because of life on the streets. That is when I conceived the idea of a children’s fund, dedicated to the needs and aspirations of our youth.” He decided that this Fund had to react urgently to the immediate needs of the children such as those he had met that one evening. He went on to pledge one-third of his salary to the Fund and began fundraising.
Children’s Manifesto 2019 Section 28 of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution states that “every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services, as well as the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation”.
From the 22nd to the 24th of February 2019, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament of 2017 and 2018, and the Efeng Bacha Advisory Committee held a meeting in Gauteng Province. The purpose of this meeting was to create a South African Children’s manifesto that spoke to the full incorporation of Section 28 of the Constitution. The Manifesto serves as a child-centred approach, prioritising the rights, responsibilities and well-being of children. It is a call to political parties, government officials, state owned enterprises, businesses, labour, social movements and civil society to engage and adopt this approach for the betterment of the children of South Africa.
This Children's Manifesto aims to address issues that are affecting our children in South Africa under the following priority areas:
The Importance of the Rights of Children and the plight of human rights in South Africa birthed our democracy. Within our human rights, come the rights of our children. Crafted by our youth, it is evident that the Children’s Manifesto is the handiwork of our children and our future as a country. The youth are aware of their human rights as well as their contribution to society hence their voices need to be heard. Moreover, their interests must be protected, that is why the Fund was founded. Mandela envisioned a society in which children are treated with the utmost respect. The purpose of the Fund is to ensure that such efforts are strengthened, aiming at repairing the ravaged fabric of our youth’s social and economic circumstances. We, at the Fund promote the success of projects bringing immediate relief, giving a voice and dignity to our youth by building a rights-based movement for the youth, by the youth.
Rights of All Humanity Matter
Dignity, Mutual Respect and Equality are key elements to the fundamental rights of all humanity.
By Bontle Lekgoathi - Child Safety & Protection Programme
As we celebrate March as the month of Rights, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not only affirm these but proclaims as core rights of all humanity. The UN member states recognises March 21st as the national day of commemoration of Human Rights. The month of March commemorates many rights, including the International day of Women’s Rights on the 08th March. In 2022, this also marked the invasion of Russia to Ukraine.
Article 1, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity, respect and rights.” These are not for some people but all people. The recent invasion of Ukraine must remind us why every life matters. As the war continues the greater question is who is speaking on behalf of the children in the middle of this invasion?
The objectives of the United Nations Convention (UNCRC), is provision, protection and participation of children in matters that affect them, it is the cornerstone of the articles as a living and breathing guide the work of The Fund.
The right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls upon all humanity to undertake what it means to be human, the mutual respect for everyone, the equality for all and dignity of all. “To recognize that ALL LIFE MATTERS” This is an indictment to all humanity young and old to Protect, Preserve and Promote the safety and the value of life. These are values that former president Mr. Mandela believed in.
As enshrined in the South African Constitution, (Act 108 of 1996) that all life that lives in the country belongs to it. United in our diversity South Africa is home to many stateless children are equally entitled to the same rights as all. The violence perpetrated against foreign nationals, with the recent protest of Operation Dudula in Alexandra and Soweto. South Africa must guard it’s humanity.
 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, page 1, December 1948,
By Joanna Kleovoulou
Covid-19 has highlighted mental health matters and brought complex challenges which had mental health repercussions for everyone, including children and adolescents.
Children as young as 6 have sadly committed suicide in our country.
An increase in anxiety, depression, AD(H)D, OCD, low self-esteem, bullying, addictions, adjustment and learning difficulties, to name a few, most of all having to with having to deal with losing loved ones, or fearing loss. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.
These challenges inspired me, as a clinical psychologist, to create a fun activity book to provide a tool box of solutions for children aged 6 – 13 years, equipping them with a concrete tool-box to build resilience – fundamental for successful living and coping. Self-esteem is vital at this developmental stage impacting functioning and performance in adulthood.
I have created and launched a Mental Health Activity Book with a superhero called Sufi the Squirrel who is sensible, resourceful and wise. Sufi teaches children about EQ and mental wellbeing in a fun interactive way. I am very grateful and honoured that the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund has endorsed this book, recognising the need to psycho-educate and empower our children by caring for their mental wellbeing in a fun and engaging way, with % proceeds of the sale of these books benefitting their The NMCF Child Safety and Protection Programme.
If you would like to purchase a copy of the iMatter Activity Book, click here.
Why are Children's Rights Important? - By The Nelson Mandela Child Parliamentarians
With Human Right's Day around the corner, we asked some of our 2021/2022 Nelson Mandela Child Parliamentarians why Children's Rights are so important.
Here's what they had to say;
Name: Hon. Given Matshika
Position: Speaker of the 2021/22 Children’s Parliament
Why do you think that Children’s Rights are important? Children’s rights are important to us children because you get to live life to the fullest and respected knowing that you are protected and children are vulnerable and have not learned how to develop voices in their own so that’s why we have programmes like safe and caring communities to guide.
What is an important child right for you? As a child parliamentarian I believe that children have the right to be taken seriously and share their views and ideas because as said that children are the leaders of tomorrow so I believe that children must share their views about what is affecting them and what are the solutions on that. To me this right is important because it allows children to participate in/ influence policies. As Section 17 of the Bill of Rights talks about freedom of expression, this right should also be extended to children.
Name: Hon. Lindokuhle Ndlovu
Position: Deputy Speaker of the 2021/22 Children’s Parliament
Why do you think that Children’s Rights are important? As a child parliamentarian I believe that children are important and should be consulted should there be any decision regarding their well-being or future. Children are the future of this beautiful country and therefore should be equipped at an early age as to how to be even better and creative leaders of this country when their time comes. This means that as much as we have crisis in our country like any other, we should not focus more on the present and end up sacrificing the future of this country which is children by not giving them attention and the right education to better their lives. As we commemorate the 28th anniversary of human rights, let's remember the words of Oliver Tambo, "A country that does not take care of its children does not deserve its future". Let's do what's right and continue developing our nation United, protecting and valuing children and their right's in the process.
What is an important child right for you? One of the right's I specifically think is important is the one that states "every child has the right to live in a productive environment". Children should be surrounded by safe communities that inspire them to give back when they are older. They should be taught how they can be the change they want to see within their respective communities by being given platforms that will make them feel recognized and valued.
What is an important child right for you? As a child parliamentarian I believe that children have the right to protection. Children have a number of rights but I specifically chose the right to protection because I feel that it is a right many people neglect. The right to protection, in short, is the right for children to be protected mentally, physically and socially. Children should be protected from abuse, neglect, child labour, bullying, degradation, etc. We tend to focus on the basic rights of the child which include the right to basic education, food and shelter but I would just like to take this opportunity to shine a light on the right to protection that children have. This right in most cases lies in the hands of adults be it duty bearers, stakeholders or guardians, if the importance of this right is understood, it will be made a priority as it should be.
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