Prof Cheryl Hendricks

As we mark Human Rights Day in South Africa, we solemnly reflect on the events of March 21, 1960, and the tragic occurrences in Sharpeville. This day remains etched in history as a stark reminder of apartheid’s brutality, where innocent lives were lost and many more injured in a peaceful protest against the oppressive Pass Laws.

Since then, March 21st, designated as Human Rights Day in South Africa, has become a day to honour the struggles and sacrifices of those who fought for liberation and the rights we hold dear today.

As we reflect on our nation’s journey, we acknowledge the pivotal role played by organisations like ours, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), and many others who have promoted human rights in our country. Born from a commitment to confront our past and forge a brighter future, the IJR has been instrumental in fostering fair, inclusive and democratic societies across the African continent.

Through our unwavering dedication to promoting reconciliation, social and economic justice, the IJR epitomises the essence of Human Rights Day. This focus is further realised through our reformulated strategic priority areas:

·         Empowering policy actors to integrate peacebuilding and governance research into policy processes.

·         Encouraging communities to assert their agency in transforming relations in divided societies.

·         Supporting stakeholders in implementing peacebuilding and transitional justice policies, programmes, and processes.

On this occasion, let us reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the principles of human rights, justice, and reconciliation. As we all recognise, peace is fundamental to our shared existence with others. Therefore, to cultivate a culture of peace, the South African National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security called for a Peace Charter.  As articulated in the Peace Charter, “Peace is fostered by having societies in which we accept diversity and where all enjoy human rights and have our basic needs met.”

This Human Rights Day, in honour of those who went before us, let us also recall that, “All who live in South Africa have the responsibility to protect and nurture peace so that we can create a society in which we enjoy our freedom and prosper as a country.”

Happy Human Rights Day.