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Human Rights Day is a reminder that I may not carry a dompas but inde lendlela still

by: Athenkosi Guntu - 20 March 2017

Aziwe Rayi

“You have the right to Equality”, “You have the Right to Human Dignity”, “You have the Right To Education”.

These are a few rights in our Bill Of Rights that I found myself thinking about this Human Rights Day. I thought back to the long road we, as a country, took to get here. How back on March 21 in 1960, people protesting for their rights not to carry dompasses were shot in the back by police, and 69 of them died. More recently, in Marikana, 69 mine-workers lost their lives in 2012 while protesting unfair wages.

Which begs the question, especially when looking at 1960, 2012 or even 2017: do we really have a right to equality or even dignity as young people in this county?

You have the right to equality, but not if you’re poor or uneducated

I come from a lower middle class family, where sacrifices have had to be made to make ends meet. I never had the chance to go to a model C school. Nor did I get the chance to finish my varsity because my parents couldn’t afford it. If it wasn’t for free education, I can only imagine where I’d be in my life.

To some, I’m lucky to be where I am, that’s because they’re in far worse conditions than where I am. The recent SASSA crisis is just a stark reminder that while our Bill of Rights says we have a right to equality, our reality is another matter altogether.

Even workers in Marikana were sprayed with bullets by the same police force that is supposed to protect them for daring to protest for better wages. But our Bill of Rights tells us that we have a right to human dignity. I guess they forgot to add the disclaimer: only if you’re not poor.

Here’s what I am grateful for on Human Rights Day

I’m grateful for the day off work. But also for time to sit and think a bit more about the vision Robert Sobukwe and the PAC had when they marched in 1960. Whether we should give up on ever finding jobs. Or being treated with equality by people like Helen Zille, who recently praised colonialism, or if poor unemployed young people like me have any hope at all in this “rainbow nation”.

We would love to hear your thoughts on Human Rights Day. Let’s continue the conversation on @ProjectDemoZA

Project Demo finds the voices of young people in South Africa, amplifies their stories and turns their cause for change into a reality. Tell them your issue. They’ll take it on and campaign with you.