Human Rights Day 2022 – Message from the Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Posted on March 21, 2022

In 1960, a group of South Africans gathered at Sharpeville to proclaim their rights in the face of injustice and oppression as manifested by the pass laws of the time. Police opened fire and many lost their lives. Human Rights Day is commemorated annually as a tribute to these citizens who gave their lives over 60 years ago for the freedoms we have today.

South Africa is now known throughout the world for its culture of upholding and advancing human rights as the cornerstone of ensuring the dignity of every citizen. The University of Pretoria (UP) has been future-focused in this regard: through our researchers at the Centre for Human Rights, we spearheaded the country’s world-renowned Constitution, which acknowledges the inherent humanity in all people.

In addition, our research (available on our Research Matters website) highlights just how seriously UP takes human rights. The research, conducted by our Centre for Human Rights, demonstrates how UP takes a stand when we believe that local laws should be repealed or amended if they violate the constitutional freedoms and rights of society’s most vulnerable people.

We are proud to be part of building the South Africa envisioned in our Constitution, in ways reflected in our outlook, culture, policy, vision and mission. Our work and policies will ensure equitable access to a high quality of education, and produce graduates who are creative and critical thinkers. We will continue to undertake innovative research that benefits society and transforms lives, underscored by a desire to have an impact on the future of our continent and world by making today and every day matter.

UP is also proud to be a welcoming home for our gender-diverse community. During the month, I will be hosting and addressing transgender staff and students in order to fully understand how we can further accommodate and affirm UP’s trans community. We will also be launching a mini-site, which will be populated with resources intended to bring trans-awareness issues to the wider UP community.

The University of Pretoria has been proud to have honorary alumni and giants in the sphere of human rights, such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as well as the late Professor Christof Heyns. Our campus-wide trans-awareness drive seeks to mirror the principles of these luminaries who championed the dignity, humanity and freedom of all people.

Human rights is more than a legal concept; it should be seen as a way of life at UP. Acknowledging our humanity and extending our care to everyone’s well-being is how we live THE UP WAY. Human rights is at the heart of everything we do, because enhancing the access and success of our students, and identifying the implications of human rights in the multitude of research fields that we specialise in helps us to re-emphasise the impact and social responsibility of our work, which is to transform lives and make a difference to society.

Human Rights Day is an opportunity to reflect on past injustices and look towards the future. UP is committed to upholding ideals that advocate for human rights, tolerance and respect for each individual. In order for us to leave a legacy of inclusion, non-racism and of tolerance and respect, it is critical that we use every day to work on something that will create the future we want. We can do this by living up to our motto – and making today matter. 

- Author Professor Tawana Kupe
Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2022. All rights reserved.

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