“Nothing about us, without us,” was a slogan repeated by several speakers at the Disability Summit in KwaZulu-Natal Province in October this year under the theme, “Removing Barriers to Create an Inclusive and Accessible Workplace”. A PHD student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Gugu Mijilo, and several other persons with disabilities shared moving testimonies of their daily struggles with workplaces and spaces that lack the necessary infrastructure to cater to their needs thus leaving many excluded at the decision-making table.
The pandemic has humbled the human race and exacerbated the grave inequalities of this world. With the deepening of the climate crisis, the decline in human development globally, the manifestation of global injustice, subjective ethics and global prejudice against Africa and her people; our spirit of coming together and ability to act as one global community has been undoubtedly tested.
As yet another wave of Covid-19 infections gripped South Africa earlier this year, the second phase of the vaccine rollout commenced for citizens over the age of 60, with an approximate population of 6 million. Around 3 million people in this group are recipients of the Older Persons Grant.
More than 400 UN South Africa staff were vaccinated against Covid-19 over a two-week period following the inception of the programme in July this year. The vaccine roll-out was determined according to age groups as per South African government regulations.
The Chief of Mission for IOM - UN Migration Agency in South Africa, Ms Lily Sanya donated Prevention, Infection and Control equipment to Beitbridge Port of Entry officials and to Border Officials at Musina-Beit Bridge in Limpopo Province. The project is funded through the Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) and is implemented in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe with the purpose of facilitating safe border Management procedures amidst Covid -19.
In response to closure of selected health facilities due to non-compliance with occupational health and safety measures against COVID-19, the International Labour Organization launched training to health workers in the Eastern Cape Province. The two-day training, dubbed HealtWISE, was a joint initiative with the World Health Organization and in collaboration with the Department of Employment and Labour.
The Economic Empowerment of Women in Green Industry (EEWiGI) programme is an ambitious response to ensure women are not left behind, be they as professionals, entrepreneurs, boardroom members, factory workers or those involved township economies or rural villages. The programme is implemented by the UN International Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with UN Women, the Department of Trade Industry and Competition as well as the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. As the Covid-19 pandemic exposes the inequalities women suffer, the words of “building back better”, “green new deal” and “just transition” became mantras during the run up to COP26.
Every 11 October marks the International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s day was celebrated under the theme, “Digital generation, our generation”. To commemorate this all-important day, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), supported by the Government of Canada, in partnership with the British Council and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), held a live webinar hosted by the Mail & Guardian newspaper.
One of the five community radio stations that was severely affected by the civil unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal Province in July this year was Intokozo FM based in Umlazi, southwest of the coastal city of Durban. The radio station, which has an estimated 100,000 listeners, was created by youth from the informal settlement who came together in 2013 seeking to provide youth with a voice on critical issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, social cohesion and rising unemployment.
A dry, yet scenic drive on a mixture of tar and gravel roads brought UNFPA team to Ukhahlamba, in uThukela District, KwaZulu-Natal Province. The purpose of the visit was to participate in a dialogue on forced and early marriages (known as Ukuthwala) in the area. The dialogue, led by KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council in partnership with UNFPA, was also attended by the local leadership and representatives from the provincial departments of social development and of education.
World Breastfeeding Week, commemorated annually from 1 to 7 August, is a key opportunity for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners, to highlight the theme for this year, “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.” Despite evidence of the positive benefits of breastfeeding, South Africa’s exclusive breastfeeding rate stands at approximately 32%, lagging behind the World Health Organization’s global target of 50% which countries should reach by 2025.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) recently organized a four-day national orientation workshop in Johannesburg following a competitive recruitment of the new cohort of the 2021- 2024 Youth Advisory Panel programme. The aim of the induction was to familiarize youth leaders to UNFPA mandate and their role as advocates on adolescents and youth health. Recruited from UNFPA priority districts, with an inclusion of national advocates, 23 vibrant young people were selected as representatives from various youth-serving institutions, civil society organizations and citizen interest groups.
Through their family reunification programme, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently assisted three children to reunite with their mother. When their mother left South Africa to return to her country of origin, Nigeria, the two brothers and their sister, stayed behind with their father, who later passed away. The children were left without parents. The City of Johannesburg then refereed their plight to IOM.
HIV and AIDS were on the minds of many people in the closing weeks of 2021, as South Africa joined global commemorations of World AIDS Day on 1 December and shortly thereafter hosted the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections in Africa (ICASA), 6-11 December. Deputy President and Co-Chair of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), David Mabuza, led the national commemoration of World AIDS Day in Limpopo Province for the first time since South Africa began observing World AIDS Day in 1996.
Walking home from school in a village outside Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, 15-year-old Lindiwe* was attacked and raped by a man who emerged from the nearby bushes. This traumatic incident was reported by Lindiwe’s distraught mother to the local Chief and then to the closest police station. Upon discovering that Lindiwe was pregnant a few months after the rape, her family refused to have her terminate the pregnancy as this is against their religious beliefs. Lindiwe was forced to miss one year of schooling during her pregnancy and is today the mother of a little boy. Most concerning is that, two years later, Lindiwe and her family have given up on the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.
This year on 10 December, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of South Africa's globally revered Constitution. Founded on the values of equality, human dignity and freedom, the signing into law of South Africa's Constitution marked a decisive break and a new chapter for the country, following a long history of colonialism and oppression. 10 December is also International Human Rights Day, which marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
South Africa is one of the world’s most carbon-intensive economies and the biggest polluter in Africa. It also plays a critical role as one of the largest economies on the continent. The country is preparing its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) update ahead of COP26. Different stakeholders acknowledge that its NDC, though ambitious, is not yet enough to achieve the temperature goal of 1.5o. With an economy that is carbon-intensive, highly unequal and marked with gross levels of unemployment and poverty, the wheels about a Just Transition have been set in motion. The United Nations in South Africa launched the “Raise the Game for Climate Action” campaign to hear from South African thought leaders, experts from academia, youth, small business, community organizations and government as they grapple with the current challenges facing the country today
Zwakala is a movement of young people who are fighting the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.