For the last 22 years, on the first Friday of every September, South Africans from all works of life have celebrated Casual Day. This year Casua is celebrated on 7 September. Day Casual Day is a leading fundraising and awareness campaign for persons with disabilities and a flagship project of the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities. This campaign was launched in 1995 as a way to create awareness and raise funds for persons with disabilities. The campaign encourages the public to contribute financially through a small donation of R10 for a sticker, and at the same time lobbies for the full inclusion and equity of persons with disabilities.
“BE AN EVERYDAY HERO” is the theme for this year’s campaign and as such the Disability Rights Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, celebrates everyday heroes with disabilities from all walks of life who through their passion and relentlessness drive have overcame multiple barriers and limitations to becoming phenomenal advocates for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and contributed to the development of society.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which South Africa is state party signatory in its preamble recognizes the existing and potential contributions made by persons with disabilities to the overall well-being and diversity of their communities. It further emphasis that the promotion of the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and of the full participation by persons with disabilities will result in their enhanced sense of belonging and in significant advances in the human, social and economic development of society and the eradication of poverty.
As we celebrate the Casual Day campaign, the Centre takes this opportunity to highlight a few protagonists of change with disabilities. These are Adv Bokankatla Malatji, Minister Michael Masutha, Ms Natalie Du Toit and Justice Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob. All them overcame the challenges and societal barriers they encountered as a result of a disability, to rise to the top of their careers and make significant contributions towards building a more inclusive and equitable society.
Adv. Malatji is a Commissioner at the South Africa Human Rights Commission responsible for the rights of persons with disabilities and older persons. He was the first black visually impaired person to be admitted as an advocate of the Supreme Court in Africa. At international, regional and domestic level, Advocate Malatji has participated in numerous platforms. In 2014, Advocate Malatji was invited to be part of the United Nations Working Group on the Promotion of the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNPRPD). In South Africa he played a pivotal role in the development of the White Paper on the Rights of People with Disabilities and provided support to the Department of Social Development through inputs, submissions and consultative engagements. Cabinet approved the White Paper in December 2015.
Ms. Du Toit is one of the most successful athletes with a disability in the world; she boasts a plethora of gold medals from the Paralympics and the Common Wealth games. In 2008 she became the first athlete in history to qualify for both the Olympics and the Paralympics in the same year. Ms. Du Toit has become an everyday hero for many South Africans in the manner in which she overcame a major life setback after losing a part of her leg in an accident and return to swimming and successfully competed at the highest level. South Africa's Olympic Committee chose Natalie to carry their flag at the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, making her the first athlete to carry a flag in both Olympics and Paralympics in a single year.
Honourable Minister Masutha served as the director of the Disability Rights Unit for Lawyers for Human Rights before becoming Minister. Amongst other things, the Unit initiated the Disability Rights Charter campaign that included advocating for the inclusion of discrimination on the grounds of disability as an unfair labour practice in South Africans labour laws and anti-discrimination laws. Today Minister Masutha is the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, and is regarded as one of the best leaders of our time in the manner in which he has overseen the transformation of the legal profession in South Africa and more notably the adoption of the Legal Practice Act of 2014 that ensures access to legal services becomes a reality for South Africans and not just a fraction of its people.
Justice Yacoob is a former justice of the Constitutional Court in South Africa – a position he held and faithfully served for fifteen years. Before he was appointed to the Bench by President Mandela in 1998, Justice Yacoob who had become visually impaired at 16 months due to meningitis had served as the chairperson of the South African National Council for the Blind as well as a member of the Technical Committee on fundamental rights during the negotiating process for democracy in South Africa.
Just like these heroes have made an impactful contribution in building South Africa, the Centre calls upon you to stand against exclusion and discrimination against persons with disabilities and be “AN EVERYDAY HERO” on this year’s Casual Day by going to work or school dressed differently, either dress up or dress down and wear the official Casual Day sticker to show your support for persons with disabilities.
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