Human Rights for Social Cohesion

Our main programme is Human Rights for Social Cohesion, under which we have multiple initiatives including the Peer Educators Programme, our Community Interventions work, and our Conflict Mediation and Skill-Sharing projects.

Peer Educators Programme

Our Peer Educators Programme screens, interviews, trains, and empowers diverse young individuals from various communities in the nation. These individuals play a crucial role by identifying needs and sources of conflict in their communities, which then inform AU’s interventions and actions. This initiative also promotes social cohesion and government advocacy to stop the spread of migrant and refugee discrimination by empowering young leaders to educate their communities about human rights. 

Specifically with regards to social cohesion, AU and our peer educators work to create opportunities for ongoing social interaction between people from diverse backgrounds. By facilitating relationships and understanding between different groups, we foster a culture of unity and respect among community members.

In the realm of government advocacy, AU and our peer educators engage in lobbying and targeting government structures, individuals, and civil society to advance the construction of a social and political environment in which the rights of South African nationals and non-nationals are promoted and protected. Through targeted advocacy efforts, AU and our peer educators seek to create a more inclusive and rights-conscious society for all.

Applications to become a peer educator are accepted between September and November. All those accepted attend an intensive 3-day human rights training workshop which aims to teach young adults about human rights, through social cohesion and government advocacy. Peer educators are then expected to take their knowledge back to their respective communities and disseminate the information to their peers in their schools, churches, places of employment, and organizations. Peer educators are also expected to attend monthly meetings at AU headquarters to refresh their knowledge and report on progress in their communities.

Community Profiles, Dialogues, and Interventions

Human Rights for Social Cohesion Class

Our community interventions are guided by extensive research, outreach campaigns, insights from peer educators, and community input from dialogues. This process begins with the formulation of profiles detailing the culture, dynamics, challenges, and potential courses of action in each community. We then hold dialogues similar to townhalls, to which all in the community are invited and can have their voices be heard.

Through these profiles and dialogues, AU implements a wide range of interventions, including government lobbying campaigns, infrastructure improvements, skills training programmes, and therapeutic support groups. These initiatives aim to promote social cohesion, address community challenges, and empower residents to create further positive change on their own in the future.

Some examples of AU community interventions include:

  • Nyanga: Building of a second police station to combat rising crime rates as a result of growing population
  • Delft: Support from police commanders and local councilors for public community dialogues to promote participation and human rights-conscious citizens
  • Europe (informal settlement near Gugulethu): Campaign for sustainable clean water and decent sanitation
  • Hanover Park: Union of women leaders, church leaders, school administrators, law enforcement, and local NGOs to discuss community issues; “Your Child is My Child” women’s movement formed to address youth unemployment, rising crime rate, and gang violence.

Conflict Mediation and Skills-Sharing

One of our primary goals is to build communities that are conflict-free, that enhance social cohesion, and that promote socioeconomic development. Xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg highlight ongoing blame towards asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants for socio-economic difficulties. It is concerning that young people are often at the forefront of these violent attacks.

Research indicates that those who are more discriminatory, racist, or xenophobic often have less meaningful interactions with diverse groups. To counter this, AU has developed a nationwide skills-sharing programme to facilitate dialogue and interaction between skilled foreign nationals and local communities, especially in disadvantaged areas. This programme aims to reduce xenophobic tendencies by fostering understanding and respect for diversity. Additionally, we have initiated a Conflict Mediation Programme targeting communities Nyanga, Europe Township, and Philippi, all located in the Gugulethu District.

Programme activities include business skills sharing, financial savings schemes, language teaching and learning (e.g., Swahili lessons with SAPS), and mathematics and science tutoring.

AU aims to develop a conflict mediation and skills-sharking model that can be replicated in other parts of South Africa, fostering a stronger national sense of peace and tolerance. The programme involves various community stakeholders, including school and church leaders, trade associations, business forums, youth groups, gang leaders, spaza shop owners, SAPS, local government, and civil society organizations. These stakeholders play a crucial role in identifying and addressing conflicts that impact communities.Top of Form

These activities promote tolerance and respect for diversity, fostering a sense of unity and understanding among communities regardless of age, gender, or nationality. By providing opportunities for meaningful interaction, we aim to create a more inclusive and cohesive society in South Africa.

The objectives of these two programmes are to:

  1. Strengthen grassroots capacities to build tolerant, inclusive communities in the Western Cape; and
  2. Engage conflict-affected communities in dialogues to reduce community violence and promote respect for diversity, equality, and tolerance.

In Partnership With UConn: Comment from Students


Feedback from UConn students who attended our weekend Human Rights Peer Education Training Programme along with their South African counterparts at Goedgedacht.

Read their firsthand accounts.