On Friday 23 September, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) hosted the graduation ceremony of the 6th edition of our annual Environmental Rights and Remedies Course for environmental justice activists. After two years of hosting the course virtually due to Covid-19, the CER welcomed 14 environmental justice activists from across the country to participate in the three-week course.
This year, in addition to providing participants with legal remedies to defend their human rights, the course enabled activists to effectively participate in the biggest conversation about the future of environmental and climate justice: the Just Transition.
The closing ceremony was attended by Centre for Environmental Rights staff, and Anne Emmet from the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, who commended the participants on their dedication to their work.
“It has been wonderful to see how the Rights and Remedies course has broadened and deepened over the years and we wish this year’s cohort of future environmental justice leaders all the best as they return to their communities,” she said.
Now in its sixth year, the course has trained 94 environmental justice activists on everything from effective communication to an introduction to the South African environmental legal framework, as well as lessons on protecting the environment using NEMA – this year through the Just Transition lens.
When I think about a Just Transition, I picture my community looking like it did 100 years ago when the cost of living was affordable because the environment was healthy and not harmful to the surrounding life and future generations,” said Christina Mdau, from Marikana, one of the more than 50 women trained by the Rights and Remedies course to date.
Participants are encouraged to take lessons from the course back to their communities and organisations, in order to share the knowledge. They are also placed in a mentorship programme with CER attorneys, where their community projects and activities are supported so that they can flourish and have real impact.
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Bulelwa Klaasen, an environmental activist from the Eastern Cape expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the course.
“We just wish that the course had been longer because when it comes to legal remedies, our Constitution and using legal power to effect change, there is so much to learn,” she said.
“Legal power leads to advocacy power and political power. The Rights and Remedies course has multiplied our power. We are excited to take what we have learned about being effective change agents home with us, where we will carry on our work striving for a just society.
When asked what lessons they are excited to take home, Meriem Mabula, an activist working in Limpopo province, had this to say:
“I will attend more public participations and ask questions, if it’s about development or anything that will affect our climate, my environment, because we sometimes do not pay attention to what is going to affect our lives.”
During the graduation ceremony, the participants watched a short documentary of the 2021 participants sharing what they have been able to do with the learnings from the 2021 course.
The CER also unveiled a music video for a rap song written by one Rights and Remedies Class of 2021 participant, Matome “Mos Lez” Malatji.
We congratulate the class of 2022 and look forward to walking the journey with them.
In case you missed the graduation ceremony, watch the streamed event from our YouTube channel.