World Day of Social Justice – Working towards a society for all

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An opinion piece by Marion Wagner

The 25th anniversary of World Day of Social Justice is commemorated on 20 February – a United Nations (UN) day of observance that focuses on the plight of billions of people who still suffer under social injustices around the world. Not only does World Day of Social Justice turn the spotlight onto issues such as poverty, exclusion, employment, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice, but it also calls on the world to actively drive solutions and press for improvement for the benefit of all.

Addressing the issues around social injustices requires the participation of corporates, individuals and governments who need to take a stand, prioritising service delivery to the communities in which they operate. When considering the concept of “a society for all,” equity and equality should form the basis of social justice and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms. This includes tackling issues head on at a national, regional, and international level.

Closer to home, the 1.2 billion people who call Africa home continue to fight various social injustices on a daily basis – and this often means fighting for their lives. Currently, 31.9% of South Africans are without jobs or a stable income. KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North-West and Mpumalanga were hit the hardest by an increase in unemployment rates in 2023, with our country’s youth making up 4.6 million of the unemployed population. These figures exacerbate hunger, poverty, inequity and inequality, and in turn, the dignity of our people.

When speaking about dignity and social justice, we must consider the very factors that impact on a person’s confidence that they are safe and protected. This includes the knowledge that they live in a world free of bias and stigma, and that they have access to basic human rights such as health, food, water, electricity, education and safe sanitation. The latter remains a pressing issue in our country, as pit toilets are still used in many schools, affecting teachers and learners especially. In the Eastern Cape alone, 427 schools use these structures, affecting 113,041 children. Not only do pit toilets pose health and safety risks to individuals and communities, but they have claimed the lives of many over the last decades.

South African public benefit organisation (PBO), Breadline Africa, has actively been fighting South Africa’s pit toilet crisis since 2023. Through our Flush Challenge, which enjoys the support of a wide range corporate partners and sponsors, we have set out to raise R156-million towards the cause over the next two years. Through this, our goal is to positively impact on 120,000 children at 240 schools with pit toilets in South Africa.

Since June 2023, Breadline Africa has invested R7-million at primary schools alone, installing 200 facilities across nine schools located in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, changing the lives of 3,000 learners. Apart from giving these learners the confidence that they are safe and secure when using bathroom facilities, access to safe toilets significantly reduces learners’ and teachers’ absenteeism, which has a direct impact on their education. Our pit toilet replacement campaign is also directly aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (Target 6.2): “providing access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and to end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women, girls, and those in vulnerable situations.”

In addition to installing low-flush and safe dry toilet solutions, Breadline Africa also addresses many adjacent needs that schools have, such as access to handwashing facilities, plumbing and sanitaryware, and the demolition of the old pit toilets and unsafe structures. This means that the schools are equipped with new toilets that are easy to maintain, eco-friendly, economical and sustainable. To date, the feedback from the schools’ principals, teachers, learners and the community at large has been nothing but positive, with many individuals reiterating that access to these new facilities has been nothing short of life-changing.

This World Day of Social Justice we want to implore all South Africans to take a stand with Breadline Africa, and the government, as we continue to fight the pit toilet crisis in our country. When you support this worthy cause – co-creating “a society for all” – you are not only giving thousands of individuals access to one of life’s most basic necessities, but you are also helping to shape the future of our country’s next generation of leaders.

Marion Wagner
CEO, Breadline Africa

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