HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCACY UNIT
Objectives and key functions of the unit
The human rights advocacy unit promotes awareness of human rights and contributes to the development of a sustainable human right culture within the Republic.
Overview of past and current projects
The unit has over the years encouraged and facilitated the promotion of respect for and awareness of human rights through education and training; community outreach initiatives; public dialogue; conferences, workshops, seminars and presentations. The objectives, intended beneficiaries and time frames are set out in the 2012-5 Strategic Business Plan and the most recent details are as set out in the 2012 -3 Annual Performance Plan.
The recent shift in the operational methodology of the unit is such that the majority of activities are now carried out through the provincial offices, with head office providing a coordination role. There has also been a major shift in that the unit is now focused on being the driver of advocacy activities through strategic interventions that it takes responsibility for and hosts, rather than simply waiting to react to external invitations by other stakeholders. Recent examples of these are:
- The training of community development workers as human rights ambassadors at community level in all 9 provinces which was carried out in 2011-2. Community development workers were identified for this project due to the strategic role they play as the interface between the community and government at local level especially in respect of social unrest and conflict on service delivery issues. The unit places emphasis on developing and strengthening strong coalitions and partnerships with social justice activists and community based advocates.
- Commemoration of human rights calendar days are observed through public events throughout the year. This is particularly widespread during the month of March which culminates in participation in events to mark Human Rights Day on 21 March each year. For 2012, the Commission held three public events in Rammulotsi in the Free State and in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. These included site visits and community hearings on water and sanitation in the affected areas as a follow up to initial complaints that the Commission had made findings and recommendations on. Thus the Commission was at the same time monitoring the extent to which its recommendations had been implemented and at the same time strengthening its links and partnerships with affected communities.
- Development, translation and dissemination of human rights promotional material such as pamphlets and booklets on topical human rights issues. In the past the unit working together with Research unit has produced pamphlets on disability, non-nationals, HIV/Aids, children and older persons. For 2012 the unit developed and disseminated the water and sanitation pamphlets in all the eleven official languages at each of the provincial hearings it is holding. The traditional courts bill pamphlet and the acid mine drainage booklet are due for delivery by the end of the financial year. All such material is intended to inform the public on specific human rights issues that has an impact on the populace.
- In its community outreach program, the Commission, through the unit and provincial offices, has since August 2012 been holding public hearings on the theme of water and sanitation. Each of the provincial offices identified the respective areas that were most affected by the lack of adequate water and sanitation, which invariably tended to be located within deep rural areas, resulting in each province holding a public hearing in such an area on the issue. Public hearings are meant to give a platform and a voice to marginalized communities to raise issues of concern to them but also provide an opportunity by which they can hold government accountable. To date, these public hearings have been hailed as a viable medium for public participation. It is envisaged that the provincial hearings will culminate in a national public hearing will be held in March 2013 during human rights month.
- Dialogues, roundtables and seminars are meant to provide a space for stakeholder engagement on topical human rights issues. For 2012 two conferences have been held, whereby in July the Commission held a consultative conference on discussions on the draft charter on basic education rights. Although the launch of the draft charter is planned for January 2013, it is gratifying to note that the charter is already been quoted as an authoritative document for norms and standards for the education rights sector. In October 2012, the Commission held a dialogue on freedom of expression and hate speech in the context of artistic expression as a result of “the spear” painting that depicted the private parts of the President of South Africa.
The dialogues are on-going, as this was a follow up to last year’s public dialogues on liberation songs and another is envisaged on the use of social media such as face book and twitter.
In an attempt to keep abreast of technological advancements, the unit previously introduced E-learning as a web-based innovative approach to human rights. This existed as an online portal for learner courseware to guide the development of curricula, unit standards, competencies and complement other traditional modes of training. This was however discontinued as the IT infrastructure was incompatible with the needs of a technologically demanding system.
Thus the unit has reverted to traditional modes of maximum outreach. Provincial offices are now actively hosting roundtable discussions as part of strategic stakeholder engagements, on topical issues such as excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies, disability, older persons, xenophobia, rights of lesbians, gay and transgendered persons, rural development, effects of mining on communities, health care and the right to food. These activities form part of an overall thrust to create debate and deepen understanding and awareness of human rights.
Project related pictures
Project pictures are with media & communications unit eg those of the public hearings on water and sanitation
Profile of Unit Head
Joyce Tlou is the human rights advocacy unit coordinator and was appointed to the post in July 2012. She is a lawyer by profession, with a career that has seen her practicing criminal law in government service, family law in private legal practice and labour law in the private sector. She also spent a considerable amount of time in the NGO sector where she specialized in advocacy on migration issues and she joined the Commission in 2006 as a migration specialist. She has also attended short courses at various institutions abroad and made numerous presentations at various local, regional and international platforms. She holds the BL, LLB and LLM degrees respectively. She is married with one daughter, is a keen gardener and an avid reader of contemporary works of fiction by African writers.
Unit contact details
Ms Lindiwe Dlamini
Tel: 011 877 3803