In commemoration of Human Rights Month, celebrated every March in South Africa, the GNRC Committee in South Africa on March 26th 2022 organized a rights awareness session for children and youth. The event, which coincided with the Network’s monthly children’s forum aimed at educating children about the rights that all human beings are entitled to, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The event was facilitated by community and youth trainer, Zukhile iThemba’Lethu, a friend of GNRC South Africa.
During the session, participants spoke of the interconnectedness of human rights with poverty, inequality and structural discrimination. It was noted that children and young people, especially those living in poverty and those who are marginalized, are most vulnerable to human rights violations and abuses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, children in poor and marginalized communities lost access to education and fell behind in school due to lack of Internet connectivity. Addressing the great global challenges of extreme poverty, inequality, and social exclusion, participants concluded, is central to the fight for human rights.
Participants noted that child poverty not only affects the well-being and aspirations of individual children, but also the wider communities, societies, and economies in which they live. All children have a right to grow and thrive in safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environments. When children are deprived of access to health services, education and basic care, and when they suffer from social exclusion or exposure to criminal elements, their futures are compromised. Where children are forced to engage in child labour, their physical and cognitive development is affected.
As well as underscoring the need to have all stakeholders and vulnerable groups, including children and young people, involved in all efforts towards inclusivity, participants also stressed the vital role of children, youth, schools, and communities in upholding and promoting peace and human rights. They called for a common resolution to rebuild trust and help those in need. Participants noted that as children they need the support of friends, caregivers, community, and institutions of learning, to access their rights and freedoms.