"In South Africa, we celebrate Human Rights Day on a different day to the rest of the world. As South Africans, we place emphasis on this day, as it is both a celebration of the rights of all citizens and a remembrance of the suffering of the 1960s Sharpeville Massacre. This day reminds us of the injustice of the apartheid regime and of the tremendous struggle that many South Africans underwent to secure their dignity and human rights. Human Rights Day is marked by ordinary people uniting to defend their rights and demand justice for all South Africans. It commemorates our progress in achieving these collective freedoms, but it is also an important reminder that the battle for justice is not yet won.
In a country plagued with inequality, there is still a vast majority of people who are denied a dignified life and we cannot remain complaisant about the persistent human rights violations. For some, Human Rights Day comes and goes without one giving it much thought, and many South Africans are vastly unaware of what their human rights actually are. It is our responsibility to be vigilant of and vocal about existing injustices so that we can safeguard our rights and the rights of others. This cannot be done if we do not educate ourselves and others about the rights to which we are all entitled.
This day reminds us of the need to practice everyday activism in order to bring about change in our families, in our communities and in our country. Human Rights Day calls us all to reflect on our country’s progress and its failures, and to envision the South Africa we want to build for the future. Sixty-one years have passed since the painful events of Sharpeville, but the struggle is not over. We need to strive, not just on Human Rights Day, but every day to promote justice and build the change that we want to see in South Africa."
- Olivia Burton