The 21st of March marks Human Rights Day in all South Africans' calendars. But, the International community celebrate Human Rights Day annually on the 10th of December, so why do we celebrate so early in the year?
The answer lies in our long and arduous history. During Apartheid when non-whites were required to carry pass books to control their ability to move freely, work freely and live freely, a small group of citizens marched in Sharpeville on 21.03.1960 to draw attention to this clear infringement on their humanity. As the crowd protested peacefully orders were given to the policemen to disperse them using gunfire...
This public holiday remembers the 69 ordinary men and women who died and the 180 who were wounded this day in history due to unnecessary police brutality. It draws our attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights published by the United Nations in 1948 and to our world-class Constitution that ensures that on paper all our people are respected and recognised as equally worthy and valuable no matter their class, colour, gender or political affiliation.
As our country continues to bleed and wail as we face giants such as racism, domestic violence, illiteracy and unemployment, police brutality and corruption I am glad we have a day 'off' to remember that long ago a small crowd stood up for what they believed to be right and they changed history.
It may have been 44 years until Apartheid toppled, but topple it did. Their blood was not spilled in vain.
This Human Rights Day why don't we refresh our commitment to continue fighting our own misconceptions and biases and continue to make small (seemingly insignificant) stands for what is right. Let's stand up for the vulnerable we stumble across each day - rather than condemning them. Let's continue to engage in public debate - rather than private slander. Let's serve our communities - rather than only our own interests.
It may take 44 years but who knows what change it may bring?