CIVIL SOCIETY WATCH 17-23 MAY 2021

This week: Moving from awareness to action on mental health

By Christi Nortier 17 May 2021

Protecting your mental health. (Photo: Natali_Mis/qs.com/Wikipedia)

This week, civil society focuses its attention on mental health action. In addition, Stellenbosch University Faculty of Law will host its annual human rights lecture and a coalition of organisations will launch their policy document on a universal basic income guarantee. Meanwhile, bees and museums will be celebrated for the richness they bring to our world.

Thursday is the first-ever Mental Health Action Day, a day that will see events and campaigns across the world, driven by a coalition of NGOs that aim to move “from awareness to action”. 

In South Africa, health activists will hold a webinar to launch an Online Memorial and Advocacy Project, a new website that will help remember the victims of Life Esidimeni but also provide resources and monitoring of mental health services in South Africa. 

Speakers will be from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, SECTION27 and the Life Esidimeni families committee. 

South Africa is part of the pandemic of mental illness which worsened during Covid-19, but there are few services for people with mental illness. This means that depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are left untreated and often lead to further harm and even suicide. 

To support this week of action Maverick Citizen will be running a series of articles and op-eds on Life Esidimeni and the constitutional right of everyone to mental health care services more generally. We will also publish a special newsletter on Thursday with a focus on mental health. Subscribe to our newsletter here.       

The rest of the week…

On Tuesday 18 May, the world will honour all those working to find a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine. This includes the volunteers, communities, health professionals, scientists and activists working together to further this research. Read more about HIV Vaccine Awareness Day here.

Iziko Museums of South Africa will offer free entry to some of its museums and half-price entry to the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome to celebrate International Museum Day on 18 May.

In addition, it will host the second Iziko Virtual Symposium to showcase the work and research of its curators, collections staff, conservators and educators. Topics range from beadwork and sculptures to the day in the life of a research assistant. Catch the daily presentations on 18, 19 and 20 May between 1pm and 2pm on the Iziko Facebook page.

That morning, the University of Pretoria will host a Nobel Prize Dialogue. The future of work will be discussed by economic science laureates Joseph Stiglitz, Christopher Pissarides and Abhijit Banerjee, physics laureate Brian Schmidt and peace prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. Join the online discussion here at 10am.

Activists, researchers and political leaders will tackle the inequities to access to cancer medicines in South Africa during a webinar on 18 May. The discussion is hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the World Health Organization Collaboration Centre for Pharmaceutical Policy and Evidence Based Practice. 

Maverick Citizen editor Mark Heywood will facilitate the conversation alongside UKZN senior lecturer Andy Gray. The webinar will cover how the law can be reformed to better access and protect human rights. Join here at 10AM on 18 May.

The #UBIGNOW People’s Assembly will launch the Alternative Macroeconomic #UBIGNOW Approach and Scenarios Document on 18 May. The virtual launch is presented by the Climate Justice Charter Movement, South African Food Sovereignty Campaign, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and the Co-operative and Policy Alternative Centre. Join the discussion here at 3pm.

Medical students and staff will have a frank discussion about the sector’s “elephant in the room” — bullying. The webinar will focus on finding solutions to bullying within academic and workplace institutions in South Africa. Join the conversation here at 6pm on 18 May.

On Thursday 20 May, the world celebrates bees. World Bee Day has been designated as such by the United Nations and aims to highlight the importance of pollinators, such as bees, for the survival of plants. Their role impacts food security and biodiversity. 

That same day, the annual Human Rights Lecture will be presented by South African Judge Navi Pillay. The former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will speak on South Africa’s engagement with international human rights law. This 15th annual lecture will celebrate Stellenbosch University Law Faculty’s centenary. Attend the lecture virtually here at 6:30pm. DM/MC.

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