“Let the children learn”, is what Christina Kopano, a CLSA leader from Mendwane will be embracing on Human Rights Day, March 21, 2017 when she takes children from Mendwane into the Dwesa Cwebe Marine Protected Area (MPA), in the Eastern Cape. Kopano has dedicated herself to exposing the children from her area to experience the diverse aquatic ecosystem of the MPA while teaching them the importance of nurturing the environment.

Kopano says that it is important to expose children to the environment while they are still young so that they can know the importance of their environment. She said that the idea was inspired by how the fisher people of Mendwane have lost access to their traditional fishing grounds even though they have taken care of their environment for years.

“Exposing children to the MPA means that they will know how nature provides for humans and how in turn we should provide for nature by taking care of it,” commented Kopano.

Kopane says that even though the human rights of fisher people in Mendwane have been violated by the state, which should not deter the community from exposing children to what rightfully belongs to them.

“In fact, I am further motivated to make sure that the children in my community aspire to be fisher people and to also look at broader careers open to them within the marine sector”.

Mendwane is one of many communities adjacent to the Dwesa Cwebe MPA that have experienced the negative impacts of MPA’s in South Africa. Traditional fishers of the community including fisher people from Hobeni and Cwebe have been systematically prevented from exercising their customary rights to marine resources due to decades of removals and regulations. This was further escalated and became absolute with the declaration of the Dwesa-Cwebe MPA as a ‘no-take’ zone in 2001.

Subsequently to this, traditional fishers of these communities are constantly arrested for “illegally” fishing in an MPA, an act which violates the fishers’ customary, human and constitutional rights.

Fishers in villages surrounding the Dwesa-Cwebe MPA in the Eastern Cape have experienced a loss. A loss of food security, a loss of trust in the government, a loss of customs and many other losses that have crippled the positive development of these villages.

For more than a decade, the small-scale fishing villages of Hobeni have been in a battle. A battle that has seen fishers dying, families losing breadwinners; a battle that should have never occurred in the first place if our government had taken time to listen and responded to the cries of the majority.

Kopano says that even though these injustices have happened, her activity for Human Rights Day is to motivate the children of Mendwane to keep their hopes, to dream high and one day to be able to effectively fight for their own human rights.

“Let the children learn, they are still too young to be entangled in the injustices that we have faced because of the past and present governments,” Kopano pleaded.

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