“Human Rights Day (21 March) was officially declared a public holiday in 1994 following the inauguration of former president Nelson Mandela. This national day-off is both a stark reminder of the tragic Sharpeville massacre and a celebration of South Africa’s unique constitution, which gives equal rights to all.” This has not been a reality for all South Africans as there are many communities that continue to face challenges of poor housing, violence, crime, and unemployment. In Cape Town, Hanover Park is an example of one of these communities, however, the problems of Hanover Park are less oriented on housing but on a high rate of un-employment and crime. The district is marked by gangsterism and violence, and has gained notoriety as a place where gangsters run wild and often shoot and kill or injure innocent bystanders. One of the major contributors to this in Hanover Park is the high rate of substance abuse as many people escape to alcohol and other drugs because of unemployment and hopelessness.
To address these challenges Africa Unite in partnership with the Hanover Park Community hosted a Youth Human Rights Day Celebration arts event on the 21st of March at the Hanover Park community center. The event was attended by youth and community leaders from around Hanover Park, other young people from different backgrounds, non-governmental organizations such as Love Life, Educo Trust Africa, the Department of Community safety as the guests, Africa Unite Peer Educators, staff and interns.
The Africa Exchange youth peer educators from Kenya and Zambia who are part of the Africa Unite peer education program in their respective countries also had the opportunity to organize and participate in this event. The four exchange peer educators stay with Africa Unite for a period of a month working in the local South African communities along with Africa Unite Peer Educators, before they depart and run similar activities in their countries.
The theme of the event was, ‘’From Human Wrongs to Human Rights’’, which supports the idea of working together in building a culture of respect and dignity for one another
During the event youth from Hanover Park showcased their artistic talents through dance, poetry and singing. Within the intervals the master of ceremony reminded the participants the significance of the day and posed some human rights questions to the floor, giving prizes to those who answered correctly. Some of the questions asked are as follows:
• Name one of the prominent local person who fought for the rights of South Africans
• What are civil rights?
• What are political rights?
• What is a refugee?
• Why is it important to know your rights?
The representative of the Department of
Community Safety also gave a speech and he largely encouraged the youth to know their history of South Africa and the importance of celebrating Human Rights as we are approaching close to twenty one years of freedom. However the main activity of the day was the big painting with the message: ‘Respect’ which everyone present contributed by dipping their hands in paint and stamping them on the banner. This was a way of supporting the idea of respect and tolerance of differences, keeping in mind that everyone is born free.
After the event most of the youth present especially from Hanover Park were thankful to Africa Unite for bringing this opportunity where they could freely express themselves and for once not focusing on the crude conditions of Hanover Park which often results in the community being stereotyped as a gang and drug infested community. Some of the youth mentioned that they appreciated the event because they had little knowledge on what human rights, civil rights and refugees are, but they were able to explain and start respecting these variables.
Africa Unite would like to give a special thanks to African Sales and Ludo Discount Store in Cape Town for the donations they gave us on this event. Also a special thanks goes to the Hanover Park Community, Africa Unite Peer Educators, staff and interns for organizing such an event.
For pictures click here