Building a human rights culture in our Faculty

20 Mar 2024
Human Rights Day webslide
20 Mar 2024

Dear Staff and Student Colleagues

Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice. Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1931 – 2021)

The annual calendar beckons us to reflect on Human Rights Day this week. What does this day mean in the fabric of our collective legacies? How does it resonate in our current context of inequality and multiple complex narratives? How does it call us to co-create a future in which all rights, the cornerstone of our Constitution, are realised by all? How will we respond?

On 21 March 1960, 69 people in Sharpeville, Gauteng, were killed while protesting the introduction of pass laws that further disenfranchised Black people. We honour that story in this national public holiday. The story of that day — and it bears retelling — is about the spirit of those who gave up their lives in their fight against the brutality of apartheid. Comparable stories are being told across the globe in multiple conflicts.

Tutu’s quote above resonates across South Africa where people experience poverty, disadvantage, gender-based violence and discrimination based on economic opportunity, ethnicity, race and/or gender identity. South Africa's alarmingly high rates of TB are symptomatic of inequalities which disproportionately affect the poor. We reflect on these asymmetries especially in the context of the commemoration of World TB Day on Sunday, 24 March. The Faculty of Health Sciences continues to acknowledge our roles in perpetuating legacies of exclusion. We remain committed to writing new stories and listening to voices previously unheard or ignored while we work towards transforming our institutional culture and systemic practices.

This Human Rights Day, the Faculty embarks on a renewed journey to amplify stories of exclusion from members of our Faculty community as well as alumni from years past. Our commitment is to build ways leading to greater inclusion.

Three events in April call us to diverse ways of listening and reflecting:

  • A panel discussion scheduled for 4 April 2024 on Transgender and Gender-affirming healthcare in South Africa, focusing on the ongoing barriers faced by the transgender community in accessing appropriate healthcare.
  • In recognising the importance of alumni reunion events, especially the 50th (golden) class graduation anniversaries, I have come to realise that some class members have not participated because of prejudice they experienced while they were students in our Faculty. These experiences have been acknowledged by UCT through a Faculty Truth and Reconciliation process in 2000. This process culminated in a Faculty Assembly in 2002. The Assembly adopted a Faculty Charter as the basis for a new institutional culture, as well as a Declaration for Health Professionals. The latter document has pride of place in the foyer of the Barnard Fuller Building.
  • The deanery will meet (9 April 2024) with a group of alumni who graduated between 48 and 54 years ago to reflect on their experiences and how best we can include them in Faculty events.
  • Informed by these reflections, we will hold an event on 18 April 2024 to invite a broader group of alumni and current staff and students to tell their stories. We hope to develop a repository of these stories to ensure a dynamic memory which continues to enrich our Faculty culture.

Our conversations are only real if you are in the room and engaging with us. We look forward to hearing your voice. Let us have generative conversations to deepen the meaning of belonging in the Faculty of Health Sciences. The graphic below highlights our constitutional imperatives.

My own journey these past four years has been an incredibly rich tapestry of conversations, movements, actions and reflections which have helped me increasingly to feel at home. I am sure we can spread this notion.

Kaise ke gangans
Associate Professor Lionel Green-Thompson
Dean: Faculty of Health Sciences


Bill of Rights Infographic 1


Bill of Rights Infographic 2

Infographic design by Viwe Kobokana, FHS Transformation Coordinator