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Latest editorial: Youth Day, Global Civil Society, Trainings…

Is it but another day of leisure? While being in essence a memory to treasure
An uprising surprising the powers that be, Met with weapons and force and hostility
Unarmed, like sheep to the slaughter, One by one they perished but did not falter
Be it not in vain the blood and tears shed on that day, For ignorance is a price most dear to pay
 - Poem by Dinesh .Birijbal.

In this week’s NGO Pulse, we remember the June 16, 1976 Soweto Uprising, and we also look into trends and challenges faced by civil society organisations (CSOs) across the world.

With Youth Day around the corner, plans of celebrating the day are on people’s minds, this is also an opportunity for others to take it easy and enjoy the holiday. As we go on about the day, let us remember the fallen youth of June 16, 1976, the meaning of the day and how it has changed our nation.

Let us pay tribute to the late Sam Nzima, famous for the photograph of Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying Hector Pieterson's body away from the rioting crowd at the student protest, let us pay tribute the youth of Soweto for taking on the streets to fight the Bantu Education System, the youth of Cape Town, Tembisa and all other townships who joined the march both in body and spirit.

The introduction of Afrikaans alongside English as a medium of instruction is considered the immediate cause of the Soweto uprising, but there are various factors behind the 1976 student unrest. These factors can certainly be traced back to the Bantu Education Act introduced by the Apartheid government in 1953. The uprising took place at a time when liberation movements were banned throughout the country and South Africa was in the grip of apartheid. The protest started off peacefully in Soweto but it turned violent when the police opened fire on unarmed students. By the third day the unrest had gained momentum and spread to townships around Soweto and other parts of the country. The class of 1976 bravely took to the streets and overturned the whole notion that workers were the only essential force to challenge the apartheid regime. Indeed, they succeeded where their parents had failed.
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Global civil society is facing a growing list of critical issues that are impeding on their ability to affect tangible change in their respective areas of operation. CSOs often plays an important role in securing public engagement and buy-in with government policies and help to ensure that the correct initiatives are implemented at the grass-roots level.

In an interview about the issues affecting global civil society, CIVICUS Secretary General Danny Sriskandarajah interviewed by Bernadette Johnson, Manager of Public Policy at Imagine Canada, states that threats to civic freedoms are a major concern for CSOs and that there appears to be a “global emergency on civic space” with restrictions on the freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

“With respect to civic space…we really have to stand together on these issues. No longer can organizations working in one area ignore the threats facing organizations in another area. Tomorrow, it could be their issue, their organization that is affected by some of these threats. We have a positive responsibility to work together to support everyone across civil society,” explains Sriskandarajah.

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Read the e-newsletter here: Issue 611: Youth Day, Global Civil Society, Trainings…

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