Human Rights Day: There Are Two Sides to Almost Every Town…

Today was a national holiday in South Africa, Human Rights Day… a reminder to all of us of the Sharpville Massacre on the 21 March 1960. With the arrival of the New South Africa in 1997 a new Bill of Rights came into being. Everyone, according to our Bill of Rights has a right to life, equality and human dignity. In fact, you can download a booklet: “What are Human Rights?” by Youth for Human Rights International at this link.


When we think of Human Rights, we often think of dramatic events that we see on the news… refugees fleeing war-torn countries for example. But really Human Rights violations occur in our own backyards and it is so easy to turn a blind eye. There is a chasm between first and third world countries. Very often the Human Rights that we take for granted in the first world, for example water, are really seen as a commodity in the third world. That perspective makes it difficult, if not impossible for impoverished people the world over to have access to water, let alone other Human Rights.

Let’s take a look at one side of a South African Town… a street of neat homes, any one of which we could easily live in…


And across the way, not so much:


This is the township we visited to deliver books for the school library. Laundry… flapping on both sides of town…


Dogs taking a nap…


Chickens scratching in the dirt…


One side of town cannot imagine life without a bathroom and the other side can not imagine life with one… the toilets were overflowing with garbage… and I would take a pit loo in the countryside anytime.


Attempts had been made at a garden…


But mostly without much success…


And little children, as in many South African towns being looked after by elderly carers… more than a generation has been lost to HIV/Aids, and parents vanishing into the search for employment…


So many homes like this across our country will not provide the necessary shelter when the winter rains and cold arrives…


We have so much in common, hopes and fears, and yet we are so vastly different. You can’t help but wonder where the Human Rights are here and why change is so slow in our country… one side of town unaware of the lives of those on the other side of town. And the other side of town not knowing that there is a different life to be had. I am sure this is true the world over, it is hard to cross the divide. We live on the line that divides the first world and third world and it is so easy to stay in one of those and not notice the other…


How could you ever make a difference. Where would you start when the scale of the problem is so vast? As individuals we can’t change the world, but we can make a little difference. A spark of hope, and a wonderful school that served this community. People with more than good intentions, but a vision to make a difference have helped get this little school off the ground.


I know it is easy for my children to think that their world is the only world… but sometimes they need to cross the divide… and know what is on the other side… I can pray that when we say we want our children to grow up to be responsible adults that that means they won’t take their Human Rights for granted and that they reach out to folk that need someone to advocate for them.


We can only pray that more and more people around our country, and the world for that matter, say enough is enough and start to make a difference… we aren’t all called to build a school, we can’t all feed a hungry nation, we can’t even rescue millions of refugees that flood the world… But we can be aware and we can care. And with that in mind, very often the smallest actions of one person can lead to the incredible actions of many. Here’s to hoping and praying that Human Right’s Day will be celebrated for generations to come and that each year it sparks a reminder not to sit back and watch the world go by, but to get up and do something, even if it is a teeny tiny thing.

25 Replies to “Human Rights Day: There Are Two Sides to Almost Every Town…”

  1. It is so encouraging to read of your attempts to cross that divide between south africa’s first and third world sides , and teach your childen to do so. I often think that even living on the other side of the world we must remember the poor, and it would be possible to forget our responsibilities and do nothing even if we lived there.

  2. Many of us spent must have spent this day thinking similar thoughts. Very well said. Amen.

  3. Hi Sherrin, Good to hear from again… I must say we are very blessed to live here, where both sides of the world lie alongside each other. We can’t avoid the poverty problems here, it is everywhere… and what an opportunity for us to serve. Hope you have a good weekend on the far side of the world!!!

  4. Hi Granny Ant and Aunty Dagi, Yes another of those awkward South African Public Holidays where you would love to say, how far we have come… but oh my goodness we still have so very far to go!!! Thanks for commenting!!!

  5. Great post! We take so many things for granted and sometimes forget just how important it is to teach our children the needs of others!

  6. Thank you Zirkie, for your good comment. So very true that we forget how privileged we are… Hope you have a fabulous week!!!

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