On the 12thFebruary 2014, Africa Unite facilitated an Information Session on Human Rights at Zonnebloem High School for the grade 11 class. The learners expressed great interest and enthusiasm through their discussion on what Human Rights means to them; and the different types of human rights violations that disturb them most. The learners named different human rights, such as the right to shelter and to be protected; the right to a name, and the right to freedom of speech. Most of the learners shared of their experiences on how theirs and other people’s rights had been violated through rape, physical abuse (female and man abuse as some emphasised), and how their lives have been affected by drug dealers and crime of people who steal from them.
It was interesting to observe how so many learners verbalised very passionately about situations where they had been victimised (and rightfully so). However, when asked to list instances when they had perpetrated someone else’s human rights; hardly any hands went up. The class room was silent. Only two boys raised their hands and said “we as South Africans are perpetrators when we steal and break down the Somalian shops”, and the other said “I am a perpetrator when I steal someone else’s pen”.
The learners were challenged that day to become more aware, not only of themselves as victims, but as survivors who are aware of their own actions that may violate other people’s rights, and to become individuals who have informed empathy.
The information session also included a discussion on: Respect and Dignity as the foundation to human rights principles. One learner correctly stated that dignity comes from within, that it is a person’s image of themselves; that dignity is shown in ones behaviour and how an individual carries themselves. The learners listened tentatively as the facilitators elaborated that human rights is about recognising and approaching everyone with respect and dignity regardless of their background, race, or socio-economic status. The facilitators also pointed out that human rights are part of our everyday lives, in the ways we chose to behave and how we approach people with respect. The learners were challenged to become more aware of themselves as change agents in contributing towards building human rights communities by choosing to not discriminate against others, by treating themselves and others with respect and dignity, and in challenging themselves to find out more about human rights and how they apply from Government to community and individual level. The Africa Unite peer educators rounded off the information session listing 3 types of human rights:
1. Political rights – are given only to citizens i.e. The right to vote
2. Civil rights – the right of every person in a country
3. Socio-economic rights – theses rights are divided into: Access rights, and Basic rights.
Contrary to the learners’ perception, the facilitators emphasised that everyone has rights – whether they are South African or not.
The information session then came to an end after questions and answers, and the Africa Unite facilitators thanked the learners for their attention and valuable participation.