The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s (IJR) Social Change Model (SCM) project invites you to its conference that will focus on the nexus between indigenous languages and the affirmation of our human dignity. Additionally, the conference will seek to explore the ways in which the promotion, protection and active inclusion of indigenous languages can contribute toward social cohesion and the national reconciliation project. The conference will be held on the 5th of December 2019 at the Blaauwberg Beach Hotel, Cape Town.

2019 was marked by the United Nations as the year for the Promotion and Protection of Indigenous Languages, and this international institution acknowledged the necessity of indigenous languages for the realization of human rights. In recognition, South Africa’s own President Cyril Ramaphosa dedicated Human Rights Day to the promotion of indigenous languages “…as a fundamental part of building a human rights culture.” Today indigenous languages around the world are in danger of disappearing, and this phenomenon is indicative of historic state legislation dating to violent colonization, and the ongoing discrimination against speakers of indigenous languages for the purpose of assimilation and nation building. Over time, such legislation and cultural expectations have destroyed indigenous cultures, knowledge systems and identities, and contributed toward feelings of alienation.

To express and communicate oneself in one’s home language is a right, not a privilege. We must recognize and protect the right of indigenous people to revitalize, use, develop and transmit their languages in formal institutions and to future generations. In so doing, we affirm the human dignity and identities of all languages and cultural groups as belonging to South Africa and as integral to the national reconciliation project.

Throughout the SCM Project’s existence, it has been affirmed that people should be allowed to communicate in their preferred language, and that more spaces should be created and opened to include and accommodate speakers of indigenous languages. Concepts like, belonging, identity, human dignity, reconciliation and justice carry different meanings and have varying real-life applications depending on the language used, and if we do not surface the myriad of interpretations, social cohesion and reconciliation will remain an elusive dream. In the SCM project’s own work across the  of South Africa’s provinces, it was repeatedly affirmed to the team how critical and valuable it is to speak about issues that affect communities in South Africa’s indigenous languages.


The SCM 2019 Conference will be a culmination of two years’ dialoguing, relationship building, and skills capacitation between the SCM project and its various stakeholders, including its IJR ambassadors who participated in its processes. It will bring together a diverse group of people from around the Western Cape, including the faraway town of Calitzdorp (WC); Vryburg (NW); Bloemfontein (FS); and Vryheid (KZN); and Warrenton (NC). In addition, it will host academics, activists, students and members of the press to collectively explore the ways in which promoting the use of indigenous language(s) can promote social cohesion and affirm human dignity. We will tap into traditional wisdoms and skills and contribute toward a positive sense of belonging that affirm our different identities.


NB: On the day of the event IJR will provide free transport from its offices to the venue of the conference. When you RSVP please indicate if you will need transport and also include your dietary requirements.