Celebrating the World Social Work Day 2024

Posted on May 10, 2024

World Social Work Day (WSWD) 2024 was celebrated on the 19th of March, by the staff and students of the Department of Social Work and Criminology. The theme for WSWD 2024 is aligned with the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development for 2024 and 2025, ‘Buen Vivir: Shared Future for Transformative Change’. Given the global economic, social, and environmental crises with violent conflicts, environmental degradation, persisting poverty and political disparities[1] (International Association of Schools of Social Work [IASSW], 2023) the theme was fitting. Rooted in Latin American social philosophy, ‘Buen Vivir’ loosely translates to ‘good living’ or ‘fullness of life’, although unrelated to the notion of individual wellbeing and critical of classical Western development theory. Rather, the philosophy is about harmonious co-existence with others in community and with nature as part of the social world grounded in indigenous traditions and wisdoms  (Gudynas, 2011)[2]. Furthermore, the theme draws up strong notions of economic and social justice.

In her opening address at the WSWD 2024 event, Prof. Antoinette Lombard noted that “Buen Vivir can assist social work on global and local levels to re-new or develop new approaches which are founded in communities and draw from indigenous wisdom, embark on actions that connect civil society movements and actors, and balance human-nature harmony to ensure a shared future”. The event, held in the Sanlam Auditorium on the UP Hatfield campus saw both staff and student engage in various activities reflecting the theme of the day.

The programme director, Mr. Luvuyo Teko led the proceedings, which included student-led items by Joseph Mesa and Rioné Coertze. Anli Swart, Zoe Chetty and Lisette Oelofse, all 4th year students from 2023, shared their innovative and creative Community Work projects implemented whilst doing their field placement internships. Ms. Nontokozo Mthunywa, from the NGO Future Families shared the various services and community-based interventions offered by the organisation. Prof. Linda Harms-Smith led a facilitated panel discussion which encouraged all attending to unpack the theme of ‘Buen Vivir’ for our South African context. Given the 2024 WSWD theme, the panellists had an opportunity to share their views on how Buen Vivi 

Buen Vivir and Ubuntu can be linked for the local context. The panel members included Dr. Gladys Bhuda, a colleague from Unisa’s Department of Social Work, and from the University of Pretoria, Dr. Peggie Chiwara, and students Ntombi Mahlangu and Tracy Ngwara.

Prof. Ntembie Bila and Dr. Jenita Chiba drew summative remarks on what had been learnt and reasserted over the days event. This includes that transformative change must be rooted within collective consciousness and interdependence with one another and nature. As the social work profession, our role is a critical one in working towards a better world, where understanding that the richness of life requires both social and economic justice. The UP Xhosa society rendered a wonderful item of dance and music, and the WSWD 2024 celebration at UP was closed with the UP Student Social Work Association (UPSSWA) creating urban art on the wall next to the Merensky Library to reflect the WSWD 2024 theme.

Furthermore, on the same day, the Head of Department, Prof Antoinette Lombard, who is also the incoming International President of the IASSW for 2024 – 2028), participated as the keynote speaker of the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions in an online event. Prof. Lombard shared an interesting presentation on Buen Vivir and how this theme can translate into practice for South African social workers.

The department will participate in the coming 2026 world conference of the IASSW and IFSW[3] on social work in Kenya.


[1] International Association of Schools of Social Work 2023. Launch of Global Agenda Theme 4: “Buen Vivir: Shared Future for transformative change”. https://www.iassw-aiets.org/2023/10/31/launch-of-global-agenda-theme-4-buen-vivir-shared-future-for-transformative-change/

[2] Gudynas, E. 2011. Buen Vivir: Today’s tomorrow. Development, 2011, 54(4): 441–447, https://gudynas.com/publicaciones/GudynasBuenVivirTomorrowDevelopment11.pdf

[3] IASSW 2024. Kenya to host world conference on social work and social development in 2026. https://www.iassw-aiets.org/

- Author Prof Antoinette Lombard and Dr Jenita Chiba


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