Share This Page

Fulfilling the Principles of Human Rights Day

It is hard to believe that 63 years ago today, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration has served as the foundation for an ever-expanding system of rights and protections for the world’s citizens, including the vulnerable, disabled, and downtrodden. Reading this 63-year-old document in 2011, it is amazing to see how far the world has come and how relevant the Declaration remains.  Its 30 articles  cover everything from the right to education, freedom of thought and equal protection under the law, to freedom from slavery and torture.

To celebrate the Declaration, the United Nations named today, December 10, International Human Rights Day. Aid for Africa and its members work every day to uphold the principles of the Declaration. And nowhere is that more evident than in the work of the Southern Africa Legal Services Foundation (SALS Foundation).  Since the time of apartheid in South Africa and more recently in Zimbabwe, the SALS Foundation has been supporting two of Africa’s most renowned public interest law organizations.

One example of how the SALS Foundation and its partners are making a difference is a recent legal success. Earlier this year, South African attorneys won an important victory, protecting the constitutional right of South African children to a basic education  through a case involving seven so-called mud schools in the former Transkei. At one of these schools, the Sompa Senior Primary School, 49 students, who shared ten desks, used the floor, their knees, or the back of another student for writing surfaces.  In the agreement, the South African government agreed to spend 8.2 billion rand in the next five years to replace mobile classrooms, water tanks, and sufficient numbers of desks and chairs for their students.

Through the training and support of public interest lawyers and citizens, the SALS Foundation is helping support hundreds of thousands of children, women and men whose rights have been challenged.