International Human Rights Day 2021: 25 years of promises; it’s time for action

This story is sponsored

Today marks 25 years since former president Nelson Mandela signed the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa into law, in Sharpeville, on 10 December 1996.  

While the South African Constitution has irrevocably transformed the legal landscape, Tekano, as an organisation situated at the intersections of health and social justice, is keenly aware of the inequality and the crises of poverty, unemployment, and deeply entrenched racial divides that make the promises of the Constitution a dream for the majority of South Africans. 

As we join the international community in recognising International Human Rights Day and the official signing of the Constitution, which set our democracy apart from the brutality and inequality of apartheid, it is important to recognise that the society we live in today is one grounded in the universal principles of human rights.  

Our Constitution recognises women’s rights as human rights and enshrines the right to health. It also recognises the rights of queer persons. However, there is an underground war against women, children, queer and trans bodies. Black lesbians and transgender people in South African townships and rural areas continue to face an overwhelming climate of discrimination and violence, despite the protections promised them in the country’s Constitution.

The pandemic of violence against women and children (VAWG) in South Africa is one of the biggest structural obstacles to the attainment of the health and wellbeing of women, children and other vulnerable groups.  The pandemic of VAWG is also a critical barrier to the enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. 

We should continue to pursue raising awareness of the systemic causes of injustice and socioeconomic inequities and inequalities for women, children, the LGBTIQ+ populations, but a human rights-based approach needs to be pushed further in the quest for seeking to promote the transformative power of collective social change,” says Lance Louskieter, a Tekano Lifelong Fellow.  

Bayanda Ndumiso, another Tekano Lifelong Fellow, says: ”The reality is that I am not safe anywhere.  I constantly have to look over my shoulder, because I do not meet the social or community standards of how a boy or a man must be or act. I’ve only recently realised how much of my identity I have had to put aside as a product of the fear that my external environment provokes.”

Recent crime statistics included specific references to “farm murders”, but fail to reflect statistics of crimes committed against women, children and other vulnerable people, including farm workers denied basic human rights. 

“My mother was bitten by a farmer’s dog on a neighbouring farm.  She lost her ear, had to shave her head because she had so many holes in her head, and had to have skin grafts,” says Chaleen Arendse, of the Women on Farms Project and a Tekano Lifelong Fellow, who was born and raised on a state farm outside Stellenbosch. 

“To reach the main road and to access services, we had to cross a farmer’s land.  My mother was bitten by several dogs, but nothing happened to the farmer,” adds Arendse, who today works with Women on Farms to advocate for farmworkers’ rights. 

“Why should children on farms travel so far to reach a library?  Access to information is a human right,” says Arendse. 

“The ‘land’ question too, is fundamentally a ‘gender’ question.  Human rights are inextricable rights.  As we celebrate 25 years of our Constitution, Tekano calls on Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to address the ongoing violations of the fundamental human rights of women and girls on farms,” says Tekano Chief Executive, Lebo Ramafoko.

“An equitable society is one in which justice has been served — and justice is served when health disparities are not entrenched by structural social advantage or disadvantage. It’s time for us to broaden the debate on human rights and to begin to make the promises signed into law by President Nelson Mandela 25 years ago a reality,” adds Ramafoko. 

For more info or media interviews, please call Bongani Maseko on 061 545 9425.

For more information, visit:

About Mail & Guardian Sponsored Stories

The Mail & Guardian’s sponsored stories are produced in association with paying partners. If you would like to speak to our team about producing and publishing high quality content on our site, please contact us at this email address.

Related stories

Your M&G

Hi , To manage your account please click here.

You can access your digital copy of this week’s paper here.


Today's top stories

Opposition caucuses on panel for Ramaphosa impeachment probe

The parties want to leave the speaker little discretion in composing the panel that will decide whether there is a case for impeaching the president

Amazon may threaten SA retailers

Amazon plans to move into South Africa in 2023 and the world’s biggest online marketplace might give local companies a run for their money

Gallo celebrates 95 years

The history of Africa’s first record label is studded with successes — and controversies

Creecy shoots down Karpowership appeal but extends a lifeline to...

The Karpowership proposal lacked proper environmental assessments, according to the minister, with noise impacts specifically noted

Police take bribes from artisanal miners, West Rand residents say

The police say that allegations of complicity by some officers in the service are common and called for people to come forward with evidence

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…