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25 April 2024 | Story VALENTINO NDABA | Photo Supplied
Human Rights Month Graphic
Empowering the youth to shape tomorrow’s democracy.

As South Africa prepares for its national elections scheduled for 29 May 2024, the University of the Free State (UFS) emphasises the importance of youth engagement in the democratic process. These sentiments were echoed during the Human Rights Day event recently hosted by the Free State Centre for Human Rights.

Exercising the right to vote

Aligned with the university’s Vision 130 strategy, which prioritises societal development, the UFS aims to educate and engage its community members on the significance of voting as a catalyst for positive change. Through initiatives like the Human Rights Day event, the university fosters awareness and advocacy for democratic principles, empowering individuals to exercise their right to vote and contribute to shaping the nation’s future.

Advocating for democratic principles

Dr Annelie De Man, Coordinator of the Advocacy Division at the Free State Centre for Human Rights, highlighted the relevance of the Human Rights Day event in light of the elections. “We celebrated Human Rights Day by raising awareness amongst our students regarding the rights that they possess including the right to vote, especially with the South African national elections approaching. We also wanted to convey the message that even though we as a country are experiencing many challenges, we still have our constitutionally guaranteed and hard fought-for rights that guarantee that our human dignity and right to equality must be respected.”

The event held on the Bloemfontein Campus served as a platform to raise awareness among students about their rights and the role of the Free State Centre for Human Rights. Limeque Redgard, a student assistant at the centre, described the event as an opportunity to educate students on human rights within the institution and to introduce them to available support mechanisms in case of rights violations.

Student-led advocacy

Badumetsie Tsieane, Executive Committee Chairperson of the Human Rights Ambassadors, noted the importance of making human rights discussions engaging for students and highlighted the role of ambassadors in promoting awareness and advocacy.

The event showcased the enthusiasm and commitment of students towards understanding and championing human rights, and also underscored the impact of initiatives like the Free State Centre for Human Rights in empowering the youth to participate actively in shaping a just and equitable society.

A call to action

As the nation gears up for the elections, UFS encourages students to exercise their democratic right to vote. Recognising the challenges faced by the country, the university reaffirms its commitment to promoting civic engagement and upholding the principles of human rights and democracy. With the support of initiatives like the Human Rights Day event, the UFS aims to equip students with the knowledge and awareness necessary to become informed and responsible citizens. By fostering a culture of engagement and advocacy, the university strives to contribute to the development of a vibrant and inclusive democracy in South Africa.

As the countdown to the elections continues, the UFS remains dedicated to empowering the youth to play an active role in shaping the future of the nation through their participation in the democratic process.

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