CIVIL SOCIETY WATCH 15-21 FEB

The week in civil society: A focus on social justice in the digital economy, the future of the arts and the state of child nutrition

By Christi Nortier 16 February 2021

International Childhood Cancer Day – this is especially relevant to South Africa, which has one of the highest childhood cancer mortality rates in the world. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Gallo Images)

This week, civil society will re-evaluate policies on issues as varied as mother languages and the transition to a low-carbon society. World Day of Social Justice falls within this week, as does the release of important reports on child nutrition, casualised work and vaccine hesitancy in South Africa. And the arts industry discusses its future in South Africa.

Activists turn their attention to the digital economy on World Day of Social Justice, marked on 20 February. The United Nations declared this day in 2007 to recognise that social justice is essential to attain peace and security and cannot be achieved without respect for human rights.

This year’s theme — a call for social justice in the digital economy — acknowledges that the pandemic has deepened the digital divide. It urges the urgent protection of labour and human rights in this new world of work and learning.

The rest of the week…

Monday, 15 February marks International Childhood Cancer Day — this is especially relevant to South Africa, which has one of the highest childhood cancer mortality rates in the world. Two thirds of affected children never receive specialised treatment. 

The coordinators have created a digital wall where people can make a “supportive handprint”. This year’s theme, #throughourhands, pays tribute to the bravery of young people and the impact they have on the world.

How does South Africa ensure its transition to a low-carbon economy is a just one? There are a number of tools and before they’re set in stone they need to be unpacked, argue researchers from the Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies research institution.

Together with “green” businesses, they will discuss how policy, collaboration, skills development and youth employment can be “cross-cutting interventions” during a webinar on Tuesday, 16 February from 2pm to 4pm. Register here.  

Over the past few months, a team of researchers from the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council have been conducting surveys to find out how Covid-19 has affected attitudes towards such things as masks, social solidarity and school reopenings

On Wednesday, 17 February, two of the senior researchers will hold a seminar and answer: “Who wants the vaccine, who doesn’t, and why?” based on their latest findings.

That same day, Corruption Watch will launch the brand new Veza online tool. It is an interactive and open data website which allows the public to access budgets, resourcing, locations and staff details of all police stations in South Africa. 

The public can rate and review stations. It hopes this will empower people to keep the police to account. Join the launch on 17 February 2021 at 10am by registering here

That afternoon, the “asbestos case” will be unpacked — the figures, the impact and the activism. Investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh will be in conversation with Mxolisi Dukwana, the former Free State MEC for economic development. He testified before the Zondo Commission about corruption in the province in April 2020. Register for the online event here

On Thursday, 18 February, the 2020 South African Child Gauge report will be launched at 10am by the Children’s Institute of the University of Cape Town. The report describes the burden of malnutrition and focuses on ways to improve nutrition and uphold the rights of children. Register for the online event here

That same day, the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG) will launch a report at 4pm on its project called “Mapping the world of casualised work and struggle in South Africa”.

The booklet will be presented by the researcher and author Dale McKinley, a research and education officer at ILRIG. This will be followed by comment and discussion with Sydney Moshoaliba, an organiser at the Casual Workers Advice Office, and associate professor Bridget Kenny from the department of sociology at Wits. The Soundz of the South, a political arts collective, will perform poetry. 

Register here and find the booklet here

From Friday, 19 February to Sunday, 21 February, the Stellenbosch University Woordfees and STAND Foundation will present the “Take-a-STAND dialogues”. The panel discussions will bring together people from the dance and theatre sector to discuss challenges and social issues in the performing arts. 

Topics up for discussion range from decolonisation, teaching drama and the role of industry “elders”. Maverick Citizen’s editor, Mark Heywood, will speak on Sunday, 21 February during the panel on: “Should theatre and dance be funded by the state given the other challenges in our society?” 

Tickets for attendance at 44 Ryneveld Street in Stellenbosch cost R60 per session, R150 for the day and R250 for the weekend. Livestream sessions cost R20 per session and R150 for the whole weekend. Find the programme here.

Sunday, 21 February will mark International Mother Language Day. The day was first commemorated to actively foster multilingualism for inclusion in education and society. This year, the call is for first languages to be built into the plans to restore education during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The United Nations is hosting a webinar to re-evaluate inclusive policy and practice in education, with a focus on early childhood education and care. Register here to join the webinar at 11am on Friday, 19 February. DM/MC.

South Africa is full of activists whose voices and campaigns need to be heard, and we want to report on all of them. So, wherever you live, if you have virtual events or meetings which you think other activists ought to know about, write to us at [email protected]

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