Freedom Day: What does freedom mean for you?
Freedom Day marks an important part of history in South Africa. On the 27th of April 1994, all South Africans countrywide, for the first time, exercised their right to vote in the country’s first democratic elections! It highlighted the beginning of a new journey of building a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it. This meant that they had the freedom to choose who they thought would best govern and represent the country they lived in.
Back then, Freedom Day had a different meaning. The 27th of April symbolised breaking away from the chains of an oppressive government that made sure certain groups of people did not enjoy equal rights as other groups. Yes, I’m talking about Apartheid chomas. Today, we are aiming for a different kind of freedom – a freedom to exercise the right to be who we and not to be discriminated against for our life choices; whether it’s living openly as whatever sexuality you were born with, going against ‘gender roles’ that hold you back or challenging stereotypes and following your own path.
What is "freedom"?
Freedom means having the power or right to act, speak or think as you want. For example, if your boyfriend is emotionally/physically/psychologically abusing you, you have the freedom to leave that relationship because your right to not be abused has not been respected.
But chomas, what happens if you witness someone else being abused, do we have the right to ‘interfere’ and help them? If you feel that by intervening you won’t get harmed in the process, then by all means assist that person. But, if you feel that you will also get harmed then ask or call for help; whether it’s the police or a neighbour. Think about it this way; would you appreciate it if someone kept quiet while looking at you being abused? Probably not, right?
“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” which is a Zulu phrase meaning “A person is a person because of other people.” We are all born within a community which means we are unified as a community. So, if one person is abused, in principle we are all being abused. Same as if one person is being treated unfairly because of their gender, then that means I too can be mistreated because of my gender.
You are free to have access to a social life, to study whatever you want and to love whomever you want chomas. You can move around wherever you want without the fear of being attacked because of your race.
You are unique and you deserve as much equality as the next choma. You have the right to defend yourself and the ones you love if you feel discriminated against. Be proud of who you are and stand tall in knowing that the people who came before you helped you get better access to more opportunities like better education or drinking water, to name a few.
Where we are today
Yes, we are not where we want to be because there are young girls and women who still face discrimination and mistreatment because of what they are and in some parts of the country, the legacy of the past still evident through poverty. However, we now have the power to slowly recognise these inequalities and help change that so that everyone can have equal rights. We all deserve to be treated equally and to treat others with the same respect we deserve, whether at home or in public places such as school/work or in relationships.
Today is important to us all is because it reminds us that no one is better than anyone else and that we are all equal. Chomas, how would you define freedom in today’s society, especially as a young South African? And more importantly, do you feel free today?
Did you find this article helpful? Yes No