Human Rights Day – what have we learned?

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Human Rights Day was celebrated yesterday around the world as it is every year, following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

The Declaration sets out a common standard that every country should strive to achieve, regarding human rights. Article 1 simply reads: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’

This week alone, the local media reported on many stories that demonstrate breaches of basic human rights, according to the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here at New Era, we reported about tribally dangerous remarks made by Councillor Cletus Sipapela, who urged his tribesmen, especially the youth, to ensure that only his tribe occupies all positions in government and Swapo structures in the Zambezi Region.

That alone is already a violation of the principle that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. All human beings, the UN Declaration says, and not only those of Sipapela’s tribe.

Also, a report by the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) this week stated that Namibian households need at least N$9 590 per month to meet basic needs of food and non-food items. Yet, low-income households in Windhoek have a combined average income of N$4 650 per month – a far cry from the required standard.

It was in fact reported that some households earn as little as N$1 300 per month, but we are aware of others where even N$50 per month is not guaranteed. This is the result of dire poverty in our country – which government has of course declared war against. Poverty, which is often man-made, is a violation of human dignity and rights thereof.
It is also a sad fact that nearly a quarter of children in Namibia are stunted in their growth due to malnutrition and that hundreds of toddlers under the age of five die every year in this country due to lack of access to water and sanitation services. Clearly the battle to overcome poverty is a fight in which, as per the appeal of President Hage Geingob, we must all help.

The children who go to bed on empty stomachs, the single mothers who are left to fend for their babies alone while fathers are drowning their souls with alcohol in shebeens, and indeed women who continue to be killed in jealous rages, are perpetual sufferers of human rights violations.

At Ontanda village of Omusati Region on Monday, a man killed his own mother when she tried to stop him from assaulting his younger siblings. This was no isolated case. A similar case is reported on in today’s edition. Some of these incidents have become so rife they hardly shock the country anymore.

Human rights should not just be viewed in the traditional context, but we must also consider how words and deeds that are often deemed trivial can have far-reaching negative impacts on people’s lives. So, as we ponder the events of yesterday, let us keep in mind the need to do more for our people so that the fundamental dignity and human rights of every citizen are protected and respected.

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