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.
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