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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Media Statement: SAHRC is here to protect the rights of youth and children

Attention: Editors and Reporters

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The commemoration of the Day of the African Child coincides with Youth Day, on 16 June every year.  The Day of the African Child has been commemorated since 1991, when it was first initiated by the African Union (AU) which was previously known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), to honour the youth who participated in the Soweto Uprising of 1976.
In South Africa, the 16th June 1976, has left an indelible mark on South Africa’s history and transition toward a constitutional democracy. Approximately 10 000 black school children marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the then government’s directive, decreeing Afrikaans as the language of instruction for the Bantu education curriculum. The youth of 1976 are remembered for their struggle for human rights, a struggle that insisted on an equal and quality education, however, tragically, hundreds of young students were shot, more than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks and more than a thousand were injured.

In accordance with its constitutional mandate as set out in Section 184 of the South African Constitution, the South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission) continues to monitor, protect and promote the rights of children and the youth. In a 2016 joint report with UNICEF titled “Global Goals for Every Child: Progress and Disparities among Children in South Africa”, the Commission found that while progress has been made as far as children’s rights are concerned, a lot still needs to be done to advance these.

Today, the struggles of the youth of 1976 has yielded some fruit, with the majority of young people aged 20-34, in South Africa having a higher level of education than their parents, according to a  report by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) entitled ,Educational Enrolment and Achievement for 2016. However, innumerable challenges persist for the youth of today.

However today’s youth are deeply affected by crime as approximately 70% of South Africa’s 20 million young people are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of assault, robbery and property theft than persons over the age of 35. With South Africa’s overall national unemployment rate at 27.7%, its highest in 14 years, youth unemployment has also continued to rise significantly.

The Commission thus urges the state to pay sufficient attention to addressing the challenges that keep children trapped in poverty. This will fulfil the dream of the great statesman and former President Nelson Mandela when he remarked “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

In line with its constitutional mandate, during this month, when South Africa recognises its youth, the Commission has launched its Child Friendly Complaints Handling Procedure. The Commission, through its 9 Provincial Offices throughout South Africa, have created child-friendly spaces, where children can lodge complaints and learn about their constitutional rights and responsibilities. The Commission is also in the process of actively creating materials that will educate children and youth of their rights.

The Commission reminds all South African youth and children that it is constitutionally established and mandated to protect their hard won rights.  

Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission

Gail Smith – Spokesperson Tel: 0609883792 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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About us

The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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