Maverick Citizen


The rights that are important to me as a young South African

The rights that are important to me as a young South African
Shani pictured with her father, Sanjiva Reddy, and mother, Laura Reddy, in Russia. (Photo: Shani Reddy)

In 1948, the United Nations defined 30 articles of human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration established human rights on the basis of humanity, freedom, justice, and peace.

This article is part of a series of reflections from Young Maverick writers about what Human Rights Day (March 21) means to them.

Every year on 21 March, South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day by commemorating the Sharpeville Massacre, that day in 1960 when 69 people were killed and 180 wounded when the police opened fire on a peaceful crowd protesting against the pass laws.

The Sharpeville Massacre reminds us of the cost paid for our precious human rights.

One way to summarise the meaning of Universal Human Rights is in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

“In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. 

Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

As a young South African, there are certain human rights that are very important to me.

The Right to Education has played a prominent role in my life. Although I had the right to an education, my tertiary education was a privilege which many are not afforded. 

We all have the right to make up our own minds. As a young woman, Freedom of Expression is one of the most significant rights for me. The right to think what I like and to share my ideas with other people is crucial. 

What we must understand, however, is that Freedom of Expression does not mean freedom from consequence. If we are willing to fight for our ideas, we must also be willing to accept the possible consequences.

We all have the Right to Food and Shelter. No matter what your status, we all have the right to a fulfilling life. This is especially important in South Africa, where nearly a quarter of people go to bed hungry each night. We need to work towards feeding every single one of our people. A society where people go to bed hungry is not a just society.

We all have the right of Freedom of Movement. In a country as beautiful as South Africa, we are free to go where we want. We are free to travel as we wish, should we be afforded the opportunity to do so. We must take advantage of this. By exploring the land, the world, and the people, we are able to expand our minds and minimise our ignorance. 

We have the Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live. With gender-based violence and crime increasing in South Africa, every single individual deserves to feel safe. This is what we need to strive towards.

Finally, we all have the Right Not to be Discriminated Against. Coming from a mixed-race family, discrimination is a feature in my life. No matter what our differences are, these rights belong to everyone. MC


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