Posted on April 12, 2016
In celebration of World Social Work Day, which was celebrated on 15 March this year, the Department of Social Work and Criminology hosted a seminar at the University of Pretoria (UP)'s Hatfield Campus. World Social Work Day is an international event that was established as a mandate to celebrate the contributions and changes brought about within society by professionals in the field of social work. 2016 marks the second year of the theme 'Promoting the dignity and worth of peoples' which is one of the five themes of the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development.
Prof Hennie Stander, Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Humanities, delivered the opening remarks at the event, highlighting that the seminar would focus on refugees, their current status and their experiences as refugees in South Africa. He stated that a lack of respect for one another lies at the heart of the problems that we are facing in the world today. He touched on the issues of racism, xenophobia, bullying, the misuse of power, and the maltreatment of refugees. He said: 'This would not happen if we had respect for one another and believed that we have equal dignity, irrespective of our race, gender, or nationality.'
The theme 'Promoting the dignity and worth of peoples', is linked to the statement made by the International World of Social Work, which the Head of the Department of Social Work and Criminology, Prof Antoinette Lombard read at the event, 'Millions of refugees and displaced persons are fleeing their place of living in search of survival and security, risking their lives on dangerous escape routes, threatened by human traffickers and other criminals who take advantage of their distress.'
The statement continues to state the reasons for internal and international forced migrations as manifold; discrimination, oppression and exclusion of political and ethnic or religious opposition or minorities, violent conflicts, natural and manmade disasters and climate change, land expropriations for dam building, urbanisation projects and land grabbing. Prof Lombard emphasised the importance of human dignity, saying that human dignity is unearned and every human being deserves to be respected. She asked that all those present stand in solidarity to treat all people with dignity, with a specific focus on refugees.
Refugees were given a platform to share their stories and experiences in South Africa. Although they related some positive experiences, they also described the difficulties and challenges of life as a refugee, including discrimination and humiliating treatment. They called on all South Africans to treat them with respect and dignity.
The seminar also included a qualitative research paper presentation on refugee women in the Pretoria suburb of Sunnyside by a postgraduate student in the Department, a video clip on refugees and displaced persons across the world, a musical item, and a discussion with a panel of experts in the field of social work and academics in family medicine, nursing and educational psychology. The social work student body committed themselves to taking action to promote the human dignity of refugees. Attendees had the opportunity to ask the panel questions.
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