Every year on 10 December, the international community observes Human Rights Day to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. 10 December is also the day on which former President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, signed the Constitution of South Africa into law at Sharpeville in 1996. It also marks the end of the 16 days of activism campaign to end violence against women and children.
In 2019, the Human Rights Day was organized under the theme: “Youth standing up for human rights”.
Recognizing the significant role played by youth in the promotion and protection of human rights, in December 2019, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD), the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) joined forces to organize an event celebrating the Human Rights Day in South Africa. The utility of digital technologies, particularly social media platforms and its impact on human rights was a leading theme of the event’s programme. The event was aimed at engaging the participants in the discussion on how best involve the youth in defending their rights and those of others through the use of new technologies. In this regard, the key issue that underpinned the debate was: whilst social media has revolutionized contact among individuals and the exercise freedoms of expression, association and assembly, it has been also easily weaponized to perpetrate human rights violations.
A number of distinguished panelists were invited to speak at this edutainment event. Ms Abigail Noko, the Head of the OHCHR made opening remarks and welcomed everyone to the event. This was followed by a speech from Dr Annette Griessel from the DWYPD. Following the official part of the event, a cultural group gave a performance while the representatives from the different partner organizations prepared for the panel discussion. Members of the panel shared their experiences on what their organizations were doing to #STANDUP4HUMANRIGHTS and then discussed how young people could also play this role through the use of social media.
The FHR was represented by Ms Rumbidzai Chidoori – the Gender Coordinator, who spoke about youth activism, the animation series #Keepitconstititional and gender-based violence. The audience was given a chance to participate in a Q&A session based on the panel discussion, and Ms Abigail Noko made some closing remarks after a poetry performance on gender-based violence by Ntethelelo Foundation.
The event was attended by about 100 delegates and it was live-streamed by the FHR on Facebook and Twitter. Delegates were able to interact with the organizing partners outside the venue. The event was held at the Women’s Jail at Constitutional Hill.