Everyone enjoys public holidays, but it’s important to understand why we celebrate them. South Africa has a painful history and on Human Rights Day we commemorate the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, an event where many sacrificed their lives as they pushed back against the apartheid regime in an effort to secure the rights that we enjoy today.
Whatever you decide to do, consider activities that will allow you to reflect on our history. Here are four ways to commemorate Human Rights Day this year:
Visit a memorial site
The three main memorial sites of the Sharpeville Massacre are the police station where the crowds gathered, Phelindaba Cemetery, where the graves of those who were killed are, and the Memorial Garden, which is situated within the cemetery. These sites can be found in Vereeniging, but check COVID-19 regulations before setting off to ensure you can visit them and if there are any additional protocols you need to follow. Place flowers on the graves of those who lost their lives, if possible.
Get acquainted with our history
If you aren’t in the Gauteng area or would like a more socially distanced option, you can celebrate Human Rights Day from the comfort of your home. Gather up your loved ones and watch a few documentaries or movies on human rights. You could also listen to some historical podcasts or radio broadcasts dedicated to Human Rights Day, or pay a visit to a museum. This will help you to better understand what South Africans went through during the time of the massacre. You’ll also gain a better appreciation for the freedoms that we have today. Some good options include:
- Echoes of My Past: A Personal History of the Sharpeville Massacre, a documentary by Thabang Molibeli
- The movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
- Africa Rights Talk, a podcast
- Museums: the Slave Lodge in Cape Town, the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha and the KwaZulu-Natal Museum
Get to know and understand your rights
The Sharpeville Massacre is a significant event that demonstrates how people were willing to put their lives at risk to free us from apartheid so we could have the rights that we have today. Show your appreciation for their legacy by getting to know your rights. Start with the 10 basic human rights as laid out in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 – Chapter 2: Bill of Rights, which relate to:
- Human dignity
- Freedom and security
- Personal privacy
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom of association
- Political rights
- Slavery, servitude and forced labour
- Children (right to parental care, shelter, food and safety)
Volunteer your services
Fight for the human rights of others by lending your time and efforts. You could volunteer at a local soup kitchen or children’s home, or make a donation if physical volunteering isn’t an option due to COVID-19 regulations. You could also sign or start petitions for global and local human rights efforts such as Change.org.