Celebrating Human Rights Day in Zimbabwe

Dec 10, 2014

A performing arts group gives a lesson on the fundamental human rights using theatre at the Human Rights Day celebrations in Bulawayo

With support from UNDP Country Office, the European Union and other partners, Zimbabwe commemorated the International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2014 in the country’s second biggest city of Bulawayo with a call for the cultivation of a national culture of promoting, protecting and respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The theme for this year’s commemoration was “Human Rights 365”.

The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who was the guest of Honour at the ceremony held at Bulawayo amphitheatre to celebrate the day, stated that “this should be a national imperative if the recognition of the value of human rights is to be realized.”

The event, organized by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, brought together representatives from the human rights community in Zimbabwe including Government, donor agencies, the UN, civil society and the media. Among the highlights of the celebration was a 2.5 kilometre march for human rights across the city, exhibitions by Government and NGOs that provide human rights related services, solidarity messages as well as dance and drama themed around popularising the bill of Rights of the recently adopted Constitution of Zimbabwe and human rights treaties.

Noting that formal mechanisms for the protection of human rights and freedoms will not have full effect without a strong national culture of human rights as their foundation, the Deputy Chief Justice urged the people of Zimbabwe to first see respect for human rights and freedoms as an important and fundamental value for the kind of society in which they all want to live.

“The power of formal human rights protection mechanisms can only take full effect when the value of human rights is cemented in the hearts and minds of the people of Zimbabwe” he said.

UNDP Country Director, Ms Verity Nyagah, underlined the tremendous strides that Zimbabwe has made in living the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These include the adoption of the Zimbabwe Constitution in May of 2013 with a comprehensive bill of rights which embodies both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

“I am aware that recently Zimbabwe submitted a Universal Periodic Review Midterm report to the UN Human Rights Council in compliance with the country’s reporting obligations. This is noteworthy, and will assist the nation to take stock of successes and challenges in implementing human rights on the ground,” she said.

The Country Director reiterated the UN’s long time commitment to work with the national stakeholders in ensuring the realisation of all rights through available national frameworks such as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSEST) as well as through new and emerging opportunities.

Echoing similar remarks, the Head of European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Philippe Van Damme, described the Zimbabwe Constitution as a progressive document that sets the fundamental legal framework on which to build a Constitutional State.

“I am well aware of the efforts by the Government of Zimbabwe and by Parliament to progress in the alignment of domestic legislation to the Constitution, in particular regarding the bill of rights,” the Ambassador said, adding that he was “not only hopeful, but indeed confident, that in one year from now, we will be celebrating a strengthened human rights legal framework for the full implementation of constitutional rights.”

In his remarks, Commissioner Elasto Hillarious Mugwadi who is the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) said this year’s theme—Human Rights 365—is meant to urge everyone to celebrate and realise that each day is a human rights day.

“It celebrates the fundamental preposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals, principles and values.”

The Chairperson of the ZHRC called for zero tolerance to gender-based violence, early marriages and betrothals and “any offending and archaic cultural practices and diabolic acts such as rape of minors and women”.

The celebrations were attended by a crowd of approximating 1500 people from across the environs of Bulawayo. The International Human Rights Day is observed all over the world on 10 December every year to commemorate the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December 1948.

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