The Year of Charlotte Maxeke – Promoting Human rights in the age of Covid19


Human Rights Month (01 – 31 March) will this year be observed under the theme:  “The year of Charlotte Maxeke: promoting human rights in the Age of  COVID-19”, with Human Rights Day commemorated on 21 March 2021 at the Eastern Cape in the form of a virtual event.

2021 marks the 150th anniversary of struggle icon and human rights campaigner Charlotte Maxeke. Had she lived, she would be 150 years this year. As a way to memorialise and remember her, her life story would also inform the 2021 theme for Human Rights Month.

Human rights day is a national day commemorated on 21 March, historically linked to 21 March 1960 and the events of Sharpeville. The 1960s were characterised by systematic defiance and protest against apartheid and racism across the country. On March 21 1960, the community of Sharpeville and Langa townships, like their fellow compatriots across the country, embarked on a protest march to march protest against pass laws. The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville, many of them shot while fleeing. Many other people were killed in other parts of the country. The tragedy came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre and it exposed the apartheid government’s deliberate violation of human rights to the world.


This year’s commemoration of Human Rights Month coincides with the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution.  The Constitution is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. It enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.


We commemorate Human Rights Day to reinforce our commitment to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in our Constitution.

  • Equality – everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
  • Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected.
  • Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.
  • Language and Culture – everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
  • Life – everyone has the right to life.


We all have a responsibility to ensure that our human rights  records and history is preserved for future generations to foster greater social cohesion, nation building and a shared national identity.


It is our duty as a nation to strive for inclusive socio-economic development, while ensuring that we combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all related intolerances.


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