By Lilian Kiefer
Human Rights Day, which is observed internationally every year on 10 December reminds us of our responsibility to promote and protect human rights for all. In the same way every individual is entitled to all human rights, every one of us also has a responsibility to respect, promote and protect the human rights for all.
In reflecting on the 2015 Human Rights Day, the international community is looking at promoting the International Bill of Rights under the theme: ‘Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always’. This means that between 10th December 2015 and 9th December 2016, all people must take on their responsibility to promote the fundamental human rights for all people. This begins with understanding one’s circle of influence, and working within it to promote the awareness of human rights and ensure that human rights violations are reported and efforts are made to adequately address them. If each person can influence those within their circle of influence to respect human rights, it is possible to build a strong cadre of human rights defenders at all levels, always.
At Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) we attach great importance to the issue of human rights, which falls within the core of our interventions within our strategic plan. The PSAf mission of amplifying voices of the poor and the marginalised people is brought to life in efforts to ensure that the poor and the marginalised people have an opportunity to enjoy their fundamental human rights and mutual respect for human dignity.
Specifically, promoting and protecting human rights requires a specific focus on those people who are pushed onto the margins of the society by inequalities and injustices such as extreme poverty and social exclusion, to ensure that their rights are respected and protected.
This calls facilitation of platforms for effective participation where those marginalised can effectively communicate and share their challenges and concerns. At the moment, the platforms for poor and marginalised to communicate on human rights issues are limited, and this restricts the extent to which they can participate in defending their own and other people’s human rights. As a result a large number of citizens get left out denied access to their fundamental rights.
The PSAf’s understanding is that addressing human rights violations in a sustainable way requires empowering those who are marginalised so that they can be able to demand accountability and respect of their rights. This creates streams of accountability that are self-sustaining so much so that people are not just passive recipients who depend on outsiders to create positive change for them.
In building a push for Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always, PSAf will between 10th December 2015 and 9th December 2016 specifically focus on addressing extreme poverty by fostering accountability in respect for human dignity. The PSAf approach achieves this by creating platforms for engagement where the marginalised and the poor people engage with their duty-bearers and demand accountability in the progressive realisation of their human rights, particularly focusing on economic, social and cultural rights.
PSAf has identified gender inequality as one of the underlying causes of poverty and the resultant human rights violations. To address this, PSAf employs a gender-responsive approach to interventions, ensuring that the gender divide narrows significantly.
In the same vein, the plight of children, the rights of children and the weak systems for child protection are fueled by poverty. Addressing the plight of children today, has high benefits for the future as it presents an opportunity of developing citizens that are productive and reliable.
Pushing for Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always will not be effective without specific considerations on the rights of children. PSAf’s efforts will focus on building community-based systems that protect children from such vices as child labour, child marriages, child defilement, among others.
Unless undying commitment is given to addressing inequalities, the pursuit of Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always will be a hard target. But if all of us play our part, it can be achieved.
The author is PSAf Executive Director. For feedback, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.