2 October 2023 at 11:29 am
On September 22, 2023, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) proudly hosted the graduation ceremony of the 7th edition of our annual Environmental Rights and Remedies Course, marking a significant milestone as we celebrated having trained over 100 community activists from across South Africa. This year’s class of 2023 was a testament to our commitment to empowering environmental and climate activists.
Throughout the intense three-week learning journey, participants from diverse community organisations were equipped with the legal tools and remedies necessary to champion their human rights. Under the theme of “Activism and Agency,” they delved into the critical intersection of environmental justice and activism. The ceremony, hosted by our Head of Communications, Lerato Balendran, was a true celebration of the dedication and passion exhibited by these environmental justice champions.
Lerato Balendran, Innocent Ramuhala, Marchelino Brown
The 7th edition of our Rights and Remedies Course featured an impressive lineup of topics, each presented by leading experts in their respective fields. Participants had the opportunity to delve into a diverse array of subjects, gaining invaluable insights and knowledge. Here’s a glimpse of the enriching topics covered during this year’s course:
- Media, storytelling and digital activism: Learning the various communications and presentation tools.
- Realising the right to water: Exploring the fundamental human right to access adequate, affordable, clean and safe water.
- The Constitution and the Bill of Rights: how to use and integrate human rights and environmental activism.
- Addressing Air Pollution: Understanding the multifaceted challenges of dust and air pollution and strategies to combat it.
- Mining and the Environment: Examining the relationship between mining activities, their environmental impact, and strengthening the participation of mining-affected communities in decisions which affect them.
- Social and Labour Plans: Delving into the critical intersection of social responsibility and labour issues within mining communities.
- Climate Change and the Just Transition: Navigating and participating in the urgent global issue of climate change and the equitable transition to a sustainable future.
- Waste and Local Government: Analysing the management of waste, its impact on basic human rights and the role of local government in achieving environmental goals.
- Mine Blasting: Unpacking the technical and environmental aspects of mine blasting practices.
- Access to Information: Empowering activists with practical skills to access environmental information essential to realise their Constitutional rights.
- The Right to Protest and Bail: Exploring the legal framework surrounding the right to peaceful protest and the subsequent legal processes.
- Oil and Gas: Investigating the environmental implications and challenges associated with the oil and gas industry.
- Organisational strengthening: practical advice, legal requirements and strategies for ensuring environmental organisations are capacitated and flourishing.
- Advocacy, campaigning and shareholder activism: how best to get your message across, with the most impact and in the right forums.
These topics not only expanded participants’ understanding of environmental justice but also equipped them with the tools and expertise needed to drive positive change in their communities.
In recognition of their hard-earned achievements, participants were presented with well-deserved certificates, including one from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in recognition of their training received as environmental human rights defenders engaging with the UN human rights mechanisms, and for their commendable commitment to environmental justice.
Danjelle Midgley says “The next step in the participants’ journey is to work towards a goal identified in a project action plan, hand in hand with mentors from the Centre for Environmental Rights. These projects provide real-life opportunities for the participants to put into practice the tools learned during the course, and to make tangible differences in their communities.”
During the event, one of our remarkable participants took the stage to share a poignant poem dedicated to women and addressing gender-based violence, a subject integral to our comprehensive training curriculum.
Thixo Nkulunkulu wokhokho bethu ngiguqe ngedolo ngyazilahla kuwe! Ng’zoceba nank’amadoda abulala abantu besifazane ajike ngama Sonto azocasha kuwe. Ngyathemba uKarabo Mokoena no Uyinene Mrwetyana bak’tshele sonk’istory mebefika kuwe, lamadoda ashaya osisi bethu bafa kab’hlungu bephakamisa izandla bezama uk’vika uyawazi amahloni okukhomba is’dumbu sika sis wakho os’fiqe sidlwenguliwe, imilenze ivulekile nezingubo zidatshuliwe kyasika! Akboshwa muntu kyazenzelwa necala licinywa nge R1000 umhlaba uyajika. Thixo yise ka Abraham ngzoceba nank’amadoda owanik’amandla, lamandla owabanika wona iwona ke lawa ababulala ngawo. Uthe wena okungenzeki kubantu kyenzeka kuwe wathi ok’boshwa emhlabeni kyoboshwa nase Zulwini kuwe namhlanje ke sibopha isbopho esisha. Amadoda asekapa abulala abantu besifazane scela ubathathe bahlale ngakuwena kuwe, bonk’osaziwayo abadlwengula intomb’ezincane scela ubathathe bahlale ngakuwena kuwe. Enough is enough! eSouth Africa sihamba phezu kwegazi, madoda musani, madoda yekani, madoda phezani uk’bulala lenkondlo angiycedanga ngsaya kamakhelwane ngyolamula nako ngizwa usisi ekhala ememeza ecela usizo ethi “AM I NEXT, AM I NEXT?”
Thandeka Makhabane is a poetess, writer and activist based in Carolina, Mpumalanga and member of the Fight Inequality Alliance and a graduate of this year’s Rights and Remedies course.
As Matome Kapa, Head of the Activist and Support and Training Programme aptly puts it, “This graduation marks not only the end of a course but the beginning of a new chapter in our collective journey toward a more just and sustainable future. “
Danjelle Midgley, Nondumiso Mabuza, Thami Nkosi
Congratulations to the Rights and Remedies course for environmental justice activists class of 2023!